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Nuclear News - 12/19/2011
PGS Nuclear News, December 19, 2011
Compiled By: Michael Kennedy

A.  North Korea
    1. North Korea's Kim Jong Il Dies; South Goes on High Alert, Greg Botelho and Holly Yan, Time (12/19/2011)
    2. Kim's Death Leaves Nuclear Talks in Limbo, CBS News (12/19/2011)
    3. Kim Jong Il's Death: North Korea Waits for Kim Jong Un to Consolidate Power, Bill Powell, Time (12/19/2011)
    4. U.S. Readies Food Aid to North Korea; Nuke Talks Likely Next, USA Today (12/18/2011)
B.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. India Suspects Foreign Involvement in Protests Against Nuclear Plant, Xinhua News Agency (12/18/2011)
    2. Russian Customs Seize Iran-Bound Radioactive Metal, Nataliya Vasilyeva, Associated Press (12/17/2011)
    3. TEPCO Faces Tough Challenges After 'Cold Shutdown' of Fukushima Nuclear Reactors, The Mainichi Daily News (12/17/2011)
    4. S. Korea Pledges to Make Global Nuclear Summit a Success, Yonhap News Agency (12/16/2011)
    5. France Doesn’t Rule Out Closure of Oldest Nuclear Plant, Tara Patel and Rudy Ruitenberg, Business Week (12/15/2011)
C.  Iran
    1. U.S. Worried Iran on Brink of Underground Nuclear Activity, Indira A. R. Lakshmanan, Business Week (12/17/2011)
    2. Crashed Drone Was Looking for Nuke Sites, United Press International (12/15/2011)
D.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Japan PM Yoshihiko Noda's Visit to Push Stalled N-Deal Talks, Indo-Asian News Service (12/18/2011)
    2. India and Russia Fail to Extend Nuclear Plant Plan, BBC News (12/16/2011)
    3. India Offers to Sell Surplus Heavy Water, Indo-Asian News Service (12/16/2011)
E.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Czech Guarantees Possible for Temelin Expansion-Paper, Jason Hovet, Reuters (12/16/2011)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. After Kim Jong-Il, The New Yorker (12/19/2011)
    2. Japan Says the Worst Is Over, but Fukushima Faces Long Road to Recovery, Time (12/17/2011)
    3. What Happened to Obama's Nuclear Option?, Mother Jones (12/16/2011)
    4. Areva Talks Temelín Bid, The Prague Post (12/14/2011)

A.  North Korea

Kim Jong Il's Death: North Korea Waits for Kim Jong Un to Consolidate Power
Bill Powell
(for personal use only)

The iconic painting hangs everywhere in North Korea — in the offices of party functionaries and in homes, in factories and in schools. Kim Il Sung, founder of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is depicted with his son Kim Jong Il. They are standing in front of Baekdu-san, a sacred mountain where, legend has it, the first Kingdom of Korea was formed. The image is the most familiar representation of a ruling dynasty that has, in just two generations, ground North Korea into abject poverty and international isolation. Both men are gone now — the Dear Leader Kim Jong Il dying Saturday of a heart attack at age 69, just as his father did 17 years ago. In the wake of his departure, all eyes are on the young man who isn't in the picture: 29-year-old Kim Jong Un.

Since the late summer of 2008, when Kim Jong Il suffered a severe stroke, cadres in the ruling Korean Workers Party have been carefully grooming his third son Jong Un for succession. Officially, that was to come in 2012, when North Korea will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung's birth. The first indication that the succession plan still holds is Pyongyang's announcement today of the formation of a 232-member "funeral commission," which will be headed by the younger Kim. The funeral is scheduled for Dec. 28.

Little is known about Kim Jong Un. He attended a boarding school in Switzerland, where he apparently became a fan of the National Basketball Association, and Michael Jordan in particular. (Whether that is actually true or just a cute biographical detail invented by North Korean propagandists is unclear). He was always said to be his father's favorite, particularly after his older half brother, Kim Jong Nam, became something of an embarrassment by famously turning up in Japan in 2001 on a phony passport and asking to visit Tokyo Disneyland. (He later began hanging out in casinos in Macau.)

Of late, Kim Jong Un has gained prominence in North Korea, putting on weight and now bearing an unmistakable resemblance to his beefy grandfather, Kim Il Sung. Most diplomatic and intelligence sources say there is little reason to suspect that his position as the heir is anything other than legitimate. Since 2008, he has been put in charge of North Korea's police and intelligence service, the two key ministries of political control.

Last year, he was also given general's stars in the military and named vice chairman of the powerful central military committee. Kim Jong Un's father had worked steadily to align his own interests with that of the military — one of the reasons, NGO officials have said, that so much food aid over the years intended for the general population has been diverted to the army. The Dear Leader's steadfast pursuit of a nuclear arsenal — and his unwillingness to trade the North's nuclear capability for economic favors from the outside world — were also in alignment with the military's wishes. "One has to presume the son would never have been put in this position [of] heir apparent had the generals not approved," says one diplomatic source in Seoul.

Less certain is the political future of fate of the Dear Leader's brother-in-law, Chang Sung Taek. After Kim Jong Il's stroke in 2008, Chang emerged as a regent-like figure, apparently on hand to guide Kim Jong Un should the young man have to assume leadership suddenly. However, on a recent visit to Pyongyang by TIME, a person who has over the years met occasionally with Kim Jong Il, including once earlier this year, asserted that Chang Sung Taek no longer occupies such a position. If that is true, it could be an indication of political infighting at the highest echelons of the DPRK.

Kim Jong Il's death comes just days after a bilateral meeting in Beijing between U.S. and DPRK officials, at which special envoy for human rights Robert King held talks with a senior DPRK foreign ministry official. Unconfirmed press reports in Seoul say that at the meeting Pyongyang agreed to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency back in to the country, to impose a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests, and to suspend its uranium enrichment program — in return for 240,000 tons of food aid. However, analysts believe that this diplomatic momentum may be slowed by Kim's death. As Kim Jong Un consolidates his political power, "North Korea will become even more inward looking, at least for a while," says Bruce Klingner, senior fellow at the Heritage Institute and a former North Korea watcher at the CIA.

The good news, for an outside world that lives in fear of erratic behavior from the North, is that the younger Kim has had three years to prepare for the assumption of dictatorial power. "There s less of a concern about instability now than had Kim Jong Il died three years ago," Klingner says. At the same time, the DPRK has only gone through a transition like this once before, and that was when Kim Jong Il was 52-years-old. The country is now once again having problems feeding itself, its economy is moribund, and problems are falling to a 29-year-old to fix. It's a safe bet that if North Korea's propaganda artists haven't already prepared new iconography depicting the youngest Kim alongside his father and grandfather at Baekdu-san, they're certainly busy at it now.

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Kim's Death Leaves Nuclear Talks in Limbo
CBS News
(for personal use only)

The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il could put a brake on talks ultimately aimed at getting the secretive communist state to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for desperately needed food aid.

Progress had been made in months-long diplomatic talks which would have seen the United States donate a large amount of food aid in exchange for North Korea suspending their uranium enrichment program, but that deal is now in jeopardy and could be delayed, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell.

Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader's untested third son and successor, is unlikely to risk any step that could be construed as weakness as he seeks to consolidate control.

Even before his father's death, the United States and others have said they viewed the power transition as a dangerous time — when the ascendant Kim Jong Un could seek to demonstrate his leadership credentials through martial and provocative actions, such as a military attack on South Korea or a nuclear test.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that the North conducted at least one short-range missile test on Monday, just hours after announcing the death of the nation's leader. Two unidentified South Korean military officials, while not confirming the report, said the test would be part of a routine drill and have little to do with Kim's passing.

Kim Jong Un was first brought into public view in September 2010, when his father put the 20-something in high-ranking posts. In power, he faces daunting challenges.

As the authoritarian dynasty enters its third generation, North Korea is struggling to feed its own people and has recoiled from reform of its struggling command economy. Despite rising trade and cooperation with chief foreign backer China, the nation's very future is in doubt.

"The most likely scenario for regime collapse has been the sudden death of Kim (Jong Il). We are now in that scenario," said Victor Cha, a former U.S. National Security Council director for Asian affairs.

The White House's initial, brief reaction to the North Korean state media report of Kim Jong Il's death Saturday from a heart ailment emphasized regional security, saying that the U.S. was in close touch with its allies, South Korean and Japan.

"We remain committed to stability on the Korean peninsula, and to the freedom and security of our allies," a statement said.

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North Korea's Kim Jong Il Dies; South Goes on High Alert
Greg Botelho and Holly Yan
(for personal use only)

Seoul put South Korean forces on high alert and Pyongyang urged an increase in its "military capability" as the death of North Korea's enigmatic leader Kim Jong Il spurred fresh security concerns in the tense region.

A tearful state TV broadcaster reported Kim's death Monday. She said the 69-year-old leader died Saturday due to "overwork" while "dedicating his life to the people."

North Korea's official KCNA news agency said Kim suffered "great mental and physical strain" while on a train. Kim, who had been treated for "cardiac and cerebrovascular diseases for a long period," suffered a heart attack on Saturday and couldn't be saved despite the use of "every possible first-aid measure," according to the agency.

In the country where Kim was revered as "dear leader," passers-by wept uncontrollably on the streets of Pyongyang.

"My leader, what will we do? It's too much! It's too much!" one person sobbed on state television. "Leader, please come back. ... You cannot leave us. We will always wait for you, leader."
Kim's youngest son, Kim Jong Un, will likely take over the reins. A letter from the ruling Workers' Party on Monday dubbed him "the great successor."

The deceased leader's body will remain for a week at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang -- where the body of his father, Kim Il Sung, lies. Memorial services will follow on December 28 and 29.

"We should increase the country's military capability in every way to reliably safeguard the Korean socialist system and the gains of revolution," the National Funeral Committee said.

The life of Kim Jong Il North Korea: Our leader is dead Can the son of the 'Dear Leader' lead?

For its part, South Korea's National Police Agency ordered officers across the country to be ready for overtime shifts. President Lee Myung-bak canceled the rest of his Monday schedule, and all members of South Korea's military were placed on "emergency alert," his office said.

Under the alert, South Korean forces will closely monitor North Korean troop movements and tighten security measures at sea, according to the ministry of defense.

Following the Korean War in 1950, the two nations never formally signed a peace treaty and remain technically at war -- separated by a tense demilitarized zone

"South Korea's concern is warranted, frankly, because an insecure North Korea could well be an even more dangerous North Korea," a U.S. official said.

But the demilitarized zone between the Koreas remained peaceful on Monday.

"We have not seen any unusual movement ... from North Korea," said Choi Jong Kun, a professor at Yonsei University in Seoul. "We will have to watch and see."

After an emergency Cabinet meeting Monday, Lee asked South Koreans "to go about their lives."

"For the sake of the future of the Republic of Korea, peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula is more important than anything else. It should not be threatened by what has happened," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Lee on Monday morning, and the two agreed to stay in "close
touch as the situation develops," the White House said.

Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who has visited North Korea eight times, said his initial reaction to Kim's death was "extreme concern." He said he is more concerned abut stability in the region now than before news broke of Kim's death.

"North Korea, the peninsula is a tinderbox," said Richardson, who has brokered diplomatic deals in the North. "The issue is, will there be stability in the North Korean leadership? Will they continue their recent efforts of engaging South Korea and the United States over food aid, over nuclear talks?"

However, Richardson said, "I think it's important that if the signs are positive that there's a stable succession -- and we don't know that -- that we engage North Korea, that we proceed with the humanitarian aid. People are starving there. Keep it non-political, but at the same time, keep a very watchful eye, standing beside our ally, South Korea."

Kim Jong Il had been in power since 1994 when his father -- the nation's founder -- died of a heart attack at age 82. The obscure leader was a frequent thorn in the side of neighboring South Korea, as well as the United States.

North Korea's nuclear program and international attempts to hinder its nuclear weaponry potential put Kim at odds with many world leaders in recent years, as did his governing style.

Under his leadership, North Korea was largely closed off to outside influences, fearful of threats from its neighbors. At the same time, it also sought international aid after extensive famines contributed to
the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

Both North Korea and South Korea have shown signs of concession in recent years. Pyongyang has expressed willingness to engage with countries involved in multilateral talks aimed at North Korea's denuclearization, while Seoul recently sent humanitarian aid through U.N. agencies to help the malnourished population in the North.

But relations between the two rival nations soured yet again when the South accused the North of launching an attack on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. Two South Korean marines and two civilians were killed.

Reports surfaced in recent years about Kim's failing health. But North Korean news reports earlier this fall indicated that Kim had been traveling around the country and visiting China, a big change from 2009 when he was thought to be ill with cancer.

On Monday, the ruling Workers' Party confirmed that Kim will be succeeded by his youngest son, whom the party called the "great successor to the revolutionary cause" and the "outstanding leader of our party, army and people."

"Kim Jong Un's leadership provides a sure guarantee for creditably carrying to completion the revolutionary cause of Juche through generations," the party announced in a letter posted on KCNA.

The philosophy of "juche," or self-reliance, is the basis of North Korea's reclusive nature.

The son started his military career as a four-star general and in recent years was given more official duties by his father.

"This has been in place for a while," said Mike Chinoy, a senior fellow at the U.S.-China Institute.

Chinoy said he expected that, in the short-term, North Koreans would "rally around the flag (and) hunker down." But given the nation's deep-rooted economic and other problems, maintaining that unity and control without a overarching figure like Kim Jong Il in place may be more difficult.

"The deeper questions come over the long-term," Chinoy said.

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U.S. Readies Food Aid to North Korea; Nuke Talks Likely Next
USA Today
(for personal use only)

The United States is poised to announce a significant donation of food aid to North Korea this week, the first concrete accomplishment after months of behind-the-scenes diplomatic contacts between the two wartime enemies. An agreement by North Korea to suspend its controversial uranium enrichment program will likely follow within days.

A broad outline of the emerging agreement has been made known to The Associated Press by people close to the negotiations.

Discussions have been taking place since summer in New York, Geneva and Beijing. They have already yielded agreements by North Korea to suspend nuclear and ballistic missile testing, readmit international nuclear inspectors expelled in 2009, and resume a dialogue between North Korea and South Korea, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of sensitivity of the negotiations.

The announcement of the food aid, expected to take place as early as Monday in Washington, not only would be welcome news for North Korea, but also pave the way for another crucial U.S.-North Korea meeting in Beijing on Thursday. That meeting in turn could lead within weeks to the resumption of nuclear disarmament talks that would also include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

The so-called six-party talks were last held three years ago, and resuming them would amount to a foreign policy coup for the Obama administration.

Suspension of uranium enrichment by North Korea had been a key demand from both the U.S. and South Korea of the North, which has tested two atomic devices in the past five years.

The U.S. would provide 240,000 tons of high-protein biscuits and vitamins — 20,000 tons a month for a year — but not much-wanted rice, according to reports in the South Korean media. It would be the first food aid from the U.S. in nearly three years.

Negotiators have sought for two decades to convince North Korea to dismantle its plutonium-producing nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, which the government insists exists to generate much-needed power.

But plutonium can be used to make atomic bombs, and North Korea also stands by its right to develop missiles to defend itself against the nuclear-armed United States.

In 2009, North Korea tested a missile capable of reaching U.S. shores, earning widespread condemnation and strengthened U.N. sanctions. An incensed North Korea, which insisted the rocket launch was designed to send a satellite into space, walked away from ongoing nuclear disarmament talks in protest.

In the weeks that followed, North Korea tested a nuclear device and announced it would begin enriching uranium, which would give it a second way to make atomic weapons.

"North Korea's disclosure of a uranium enrichment program was bait" for negotiations and aid, said Jeung Young-tae, an analyst with the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul. "And the United States grabbed that bait."

With little arable land and outdated agricultural practices, North Korea has long struggled to feed its people. Flooding and a harsh winter further destroyed crops. The World Food Program issued a plea earlier this year for $218 million in humanitarian help to feed the most vulnerable.

As donations trickled in, Washington deliberated for months on whether to contribute food aid.

Then, in July, U.S. and North Korean negotiators met in New York, and again in Geneva in November.

Two days of discussion on food aid last week in Beijing led up to this week's expected announcement of a food-aid package.

This diplomatic dance has unfolded as North Korea prepares for two milestone events for its citizens: the 100th anniversary of the April 1912 birth of President Kim Il Sung, who is officially regarded as the nation's "eternal president" long after his death, and a movement to prepare Kim Jong Un, son of current leader Kim Jong Il, to become the next ruler.

A peace treaty with the U.S. to formally end the Korean War and ensure stability on the Korean peninsula has remained a key goal for the North Korean leadership. The war that erupted in 1950 was suspended with an armistice in 1953, but tensions on the Korean peninsula have remained high ever since.

A technical state of war remains, and the U.S. maintains a garrison of 28,500 troops in South Korea to protect its ally against aggression.

More recently, the deadly March 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship and a November 2010 artillery attack on a front-line South Korean island populated by civilians only deepened tensions between North Korea and the West.

Besides a food aid deal, another tangible sign of diplomatic progress has been North Korea's recent willingness to discuss letting U.S. military officials into North Korea to recover remains of U.S. servicemen killed — a project suspended by Washington in 2005. North Korea has agreed to allow a first U.S. team into the country in the spring, officials said.

But overlying all of this is a desire by the U.S. and its allies to restart nuclear disarmament negotiations.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Friday that there was no announcement yet on food aid or further U.S. talks with North Korea.

However, those with knowledge of the negotiations told the AP an announcement was expected as soon as Monday, and would include a provision for better monitoring of food distribution to allay concerns that aid meant for the most needy is diverted to North Korea's powerful military.

Nuland, who has said the government wants to ensure the food goes to the needy, "not to the regime, and not to go locked up in storehouses," has said the food in question is better characterized as "nutritional assistance."

"When you think about food, you think about sacks of rice, cans of food, things that might easily be diverted to the wrong purpose," she said Thursday.

"When you talk about nutritional assistance, it could be that, but it could also be things like vitamin supplements to populations in need, like women and children; it could be high protein biscuits or other things." The concern, she said, is that items intended for starving women and children "not find themselves on some leader's banquet table."

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B.  Nuclear Safety & Security

India Suspects Foreign Involvement in Protests Against Nuclear Plant
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

Indian government suspected that some foreigners were involved in the on-going agitation against a nuclear plant in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, reported local daily The Times of India on Sunday in its electronic edition.

Suspecting foreign hand behind protests against Kudankulam nuclear plant, the government has launched a probe into functioning of six NGOs in Tamil Nadu and a notice has been issued to them seeking explanation of utilization of funds received from abroad, said the newspaper.

Racing against time to operationalize the nuclear plant built with Russian help at the cost of around 140 billion rupees (2.8 billion U.S. dollars), the government is also undertaking an aggressive campaign to allay fears of the locals over the project, said the newspaper.

Government sources said there are suspicions that the protests are being fuelled from outside the country and an investigation by the Investigation Bureau has been initiated to look into it.

The protests by locals against the nuclear project in Kudankulam has been going on for about 100 days.

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Russian Customs Seize Iran-Bound Radioactive Metal
Nataliya Vasilyeva
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Russia's customs agency announced Friday it has seized pieces of radioactive metal from the luggage of an Iranian passenger bound for Tehran from one of Moscow's main airports.

It was not immediately clear if the substance could be any use to Iran's controversial nuclear program.
Iran's semi-official news agency ISNA confirmed that material had been seized from the luggage of an Iranian passenger in Moscow about a month ago, but denied it was radioactive.

Russia's Federal Customs Service said in a statement that agents found 18 pieces of metal, packed in steel pencil cases, at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport after a radiation alert went off. It said the gauges showed that radiation levels were 20 times higher than normal.

Spokeswoman Kseniya Grebenkina told The Associated Press the luggage was seized some time ago, but did not specify when. The Iranian wasn't detained, she said, and it was not clear whether he was still in Russia or not. She did not give his name. The pieces contained Sodium-22, she said, a radioactive isotope of sodium that could be produced in a particle accelerator.

Kelly Classic, a health physicist at the United States' renowned Mayo Clinic, said: "You can't make a nuclear bomb or dirty bomb with it."

"You'd certainly wonder where it came from and why," Classic told The Associated Press. "It's prudent to be a little leery considering where the person's going."

Classic said the isotope can be used in devices that determine the thickness of metals.

Another expert, Michael Unterweger, group leader for the radioactivity group at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, said it can be used as a calibration source for radiation instrumentation.

Unterweger said "it's really strange" that so much Sodium 22 was in the luggage, but if he were the Russian authorities "I wouldn't worry about it."

Iran's ISNA news agency quoted an official at the Iranian Embassy in Moscow as denying that radioactive materials were seized from the luggage of an Iranian passenger bound for Tehran.

"About a month ago, a misunderstanding arose in connection with (an Iranian) student who was carrying some materials for dentistry uses. The issue was quickly resolved and apologies were offered to him," ISNA quoted the official as saying Friday.

ISNA didn't name the official but quoted him as blaming Western media for publishing incorrect information, although the reports first came from the Russian customs service.

"These reports seek to damage Iran-Russia relations," the official was quoted as saying.
Grebenkina said prosecutors have launched a probe into the incident but insisted that the material seized is not highly radioactive.

It was not immediately clear why the agency chose to make the announcement on Friday. Russia, which built the Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran, has aimed to show the international community that its nuclear cooperation with Iran is not connected to Iran's alleged aim of building nuclear weapons.

The U.S. and Israel have not ruled out a military option against Iran's controversial nuclear program. Iran denies the charge, saying its program is geared toward generating electricity and producing medical radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.

Last month, the U.S. and its Western allies bluntly accused Iran of deceiving the world by trying to hide work on nuclear arms, and the U.N. atomic agency passed a new resolution criticizing Tehran's nuclear defiance.

Sergei Novikov, spokesman for Russia's Rosatom nuclear agency, told the AP that the pieces seized at Moscow airport are highly unlikely to have come from Rosatom and said the isotope is produced by particle accelerators, not by nuclear reactors.

In Russia, universities, research institutes and big medical centers have the technology to produce it, he said.

Novikov said Rosatom has never sold Sodium-22 to Iran, but it has supplied Iran with other types of medical isotopes.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said officials have contacted Russia for more information, and "Until we hear from the Russians exactly what they've got and how it all went down, I don't think we should evaluate."

A spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency, who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to talk on the subject publicly, said that to his knowledge the agency had not yet been notified by the Russians about the seizure and had no information other than what was being reported by media.

Earlier this year, Atomstroiexport, a Rosatom subsidiary, launched Iran's first nuclear reactor in Bushehr. Russian officials have insisted the deal 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.

The U.S. House of Representatives, meanwhile, endorsed harsher sanctions Wednesday against Iran aimed at derailing its suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.

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TEPCO Faces Tough Challenges After 'Cold Shutdown' of Fukushima Nuclear Reactors
The Mainichi Daily News
(for personal use only)

The government declared on Dec. 16 that the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant has been brought to a stable "cold shutdown," paving the way for full-fledged work to decommission the plant's crippled nuclear reactors, but enormous financial difficulties loom for the operator of the nuclear complex.

Officials have determined it is likely to take more than 30 years to decommission the troubled nuclear reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant, but it is hard to predict the total cost of scrapping the reactors.

"We can't see the whole picture when it comes to the cost of decommissioning the nuclear reactors. We can't imagine expenses spanning 30 to 40 years from now," said a senior official of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the nuclear power plant.

The costs will certainly take a heavy toll on TEPCO. The government has started to consider injecting taxpayers' money into the utility in a bid to rescue the beleaguered company, but the company faces managerial problems that are likely to come to a head soon.

The utility has yet to clearly show how to deal with what a senior official of the Federation of Electric Power Companies has described as "work no one on earth has ever done before," and how it would finance this work. Such being the case, pessimism about the future prevails within the company.

Extra annual fuel costs in the range of 1 trillion yen -- resulting from suspension of the plant's nuclear reactors -- weigh heavily on the utility. According to estimates by a government third party panel, it will cost about 1.151 trillion yen to decommission the No. 1 to 4 reactors. If decontamination costs were added to this amount, the total cost would likely reach several trillion yen. Furthermore, if the costs of decommissioning the Nos. 5 and 6 reactors were included, the financial burden on the utility would
become even heavier.

Compensation to people affected by the nuclear crisis will not directly affect the utility financially because the government will foot the bills for compensation through the Nuclear Damage Compensation Facilitation Corporation. But the costs of decontamination and decommissioning the nuclear reactors are weighing on the company, and therefore it is fighting an uphill battle to secure funds by selling its assets and cutting personnel expenses. According to plans unveiled by TEPCO on Dec. 9, it will be able to cut only 2.649 trillion yen over next 10 years.

TEPCO president Toshio Nishizawa said that the company must "reform the profit structure" to secure funds by raising the utility rates and resuming the operation of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture. But it is difficult to secure public understanding of such moves. Therefore, the worrying prospect that the company will face the risk of insolvency in the business year ending March 2013 is becoming increasingly realistic.

The government and the Nuclear Damage Compensation Facilitation Corporation have already started to discuss injecting public funds into the utility behind the scenes with an eye to incorporating funding into the comprehensive special business plan to be hammered out by next spring.

Nishizawa said he wants to keep TEPCO as a private company, but Economy, Trade and Industry Minster Yukio Edano is reluctant to allow an increase in utility rates. Furthermore, it is unclear when or whether the operation of TEPCO's nuclear reactors can resume. Hence, the utility's options are diminishing day by day.

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S. Korea Pledges to Make Global Nuclear Summit a Success
Yonhap News Agency
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With 100 days remaining before it hosts a global nuclear summit, South Korea is putting the final touches on preparations for the 50-nation Nuclear Security Summit, key organizers said Friday, promising to make the event a success.

The Seoul nuclear summit take place on March 26 and 27, attended by top leaders from about 50 countries, including the United States, Russia, China, Japan, Britain and France. The summit, which will be the second such meeting following one in the United States in 2010, is aimed at preventing nuclear terrorism.

It is also expected to give a further boost to a "Global Korea" campaign by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to upgrade the nation's stature on the global stage, organizers said.

On Tuesday, the Seoul government will hold its third round of intra-government meetings, presided over by Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, to discuss the process of preparations and future plans, they said.

"The 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit will significantly help South Korea boost its stature and national brand image in the world," said Ambassador Cho Hee-yong, secretary-general at the Preparatory and Planning Office for the summit.

Negotiators from the participating nations have been in close coordination to discuss key goals for the Seoul summit and what topics should be included in a so-called "Seoul Communique" that will be announced at the end of the summit, Cho said.

Last month, a group of former leaders and ministers from around the world held its first meeting in Seoul to advise President Lee on nuclear security issues ahead of the summit.

The "Eminent Persons Group" comprised 15 experts on international security and nuclear issues, including Hans Blix, a former Swedish foreign minister and former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency; former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; and former Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Seoul officials said one of the key topics at the Seoul summit would be how to protect vulnerable radioactive materials worldwide so terrorists could not use them to make a crude nuclear bomb.

Other key agenda to be discussed in Seoul will include "practical and concrete" ways to prevent the threat of nuclear terrorism and ensure the safety of atomic energy, they said.

Concerns have persisted over the safety of nuclear energy following widespread radioactive contamination after Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis in March of this year.

North Korea's nuclear weapons programs are not on the agenda of the upcoming summit in Seoul, but the issue can be discussed on the sidelines of the forum, they said.

President Lee has already expressed his willingness to invite the North's leader Kim Jong-il to the Seoul summit but Pyongyang has not responded.

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France Doesn’t Rule Out Closure of Oldest Nuclear Plant
Tara Patel and Rudy Ruitenberg
Business Week
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France hasn’t ruled out the permanent shutdown of its oldest nuclear plant at Fessenheim because of safety concerns, Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said.

“The closure is not excluded, neither is it being announced at this point,” she said today in an interview on France Info radio when asked about the future of the facility in eastern France. “We can’t use an ideological approach to nuclear safety.”

The opposition Socialists pledged last month to shut Fessenheim if they win next year’s presidential elections. The safety of France’s 58 reactors, all operated by Electricite de France SA in a nation that depends on atomic power for three- quarters of its energy needs, came to the fore after the
Fukushima nuclear meltdown earlier this year.

France’s nuclear regulator will publish the results of safety checks at the country’s nuclear plants next month. The stress tests were ordered by the European Commission in the wake of the Japanese disaster and are designed to test whether atomic installations can withstand earthquakes, floods and failures in cooling and power systems.

In July, the regulator known as the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire ruled that EDF could run the Unit 1 reactor at Fessenheim, which was commissioned in 1978, for another 10 years as long as improvements were made. The plant is located near the border with Germany and Switzerland.

The watchdog recommended the creation of an alternative source of cooling water to the Alsace canal and wants EDF to enlarge the plant’s concrete base, which is thinner than others in France, Kosciusko-Morizet said.

“I want to wait for the results of the post-Fukushima audit before drawing conclusions about Fessenheim,” she said.

The president of the parliamentary science committee warned politicians against interfering in the affairs of the nuclear watchdog.

“If ever there is pressure, that would not be acceptable,” French lawmaker Claude Birraux told a press conference today. The ASN’s budget should be increased, he said.

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C.  Iran

U.S. Worried Iran on Brink of Underground Nuclear Activity
Indira A. R. Lakshmanan
Business Week
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The Obama administration is concerned Iran is on the verge of enriching uranium at a facility deep underground near the Muslim holy city of Qom, a move that may strengthen those advocating tougher action to stop Iran’s suspected atomic weapons program.

Iranian nuclear scientists at the Fordo facility appear to be within weeks of producing 20 percent enriched uranium, according to Iran analysts and nuclear specialists in close communication with U.S. officials and atomic inspectors. Enriched uranium is used to fuel power plants and reactors, and may be further processed into atomic weapons material.

Administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, worry Iran’s actions may bolster calls for a military response and ratchet up pressure to limit Iran’s oil exports, which might send oil prices soaring.

“Senior advisers to President Obama privately express concern that Israel might see Iran’s
commencement of the Fordo facility” as a justification for a military strike, said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington who has frequent discussions with U.S. officials.

Sadjadpour said some White House officials question whether Iran is trying to provoke an Israeli strike in order to rally support at home and abroad. The Obama administration, he said, wants to prevent miscalculations that might trigger a military conflict. The U.S. and Israel say military action remains an option if diplomacy and other measures fail to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb.

Two State Department officials who direct U.S. policy on Iran’s nuclear activities are heading to Israel this week. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and Robert Einhorn, a State Department special adviser for nonproliferation, will be in Israel Dec. 17 and 18 to discuss regional matters
including “common security challenges,” according to a State Department announcement today.

Their trip follows Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s meetings yesterday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon in Washington. It “reinforces the strong and enduring security cooperation between our two governments,” the State Department said.

The visits come amid growing pressure to tighten financial and energy sanctions on Iran. Congress this week approved measures against the Central Bank of Iran that the administration previously resisted on the grounds that targeting an important oil supplier for Asia and Europe threatens to fracture the coalition against Iran and raise oil prices.

“There’s absolutely a risk” that the price of oil would go up, “which would mean that Iran would, in fact, have more money to fuel its nuclear ambitions,” Sherman testified on Dec. 1.

Crude for January delivery fell $1.08 to $93.87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange today, the lowest settlement since Nov. 2. Prices have risen 2.7 percent this year after climbing 15 percent in 2010. Futures have tumbled 6.3 percent in the past two days.

Concerns about confrontations with Iran sent oil up 2.4 percent on Dec. 13, the biggest gain in almost four weeks, on speculation shipments from the Persian Gulf would be disrupted after a report that Iran will hold drills to practice closing the Strait of Hormuz.

Gholamreza Jalali, head of Iran’s civil defense organization, said yesterday that Iran will move its uranium enrichment centers to locations that are safer from attack if necessary, according to the state-run Mehr news agency.

U.S. officials say Iran is close to starting up Fordo’s two cascades of 174 centrifuges each, fast-spinning machines that enrich uranium for use as a nuclear fuel. Uranium enriched at higher concentrations of 90 percent can be used for a bomb.

Dennis Ross, who until last month was special assistant to President Barack Obama for the region including Iran, said Israel has reason to be concerned about enrichment at Qom.

Iran’s accumulation of low-enriched uranium, its decision to enrich to nearly 20 percent “when there is no justification for it,” its hardening of sites, and other “activities related to possible weaponization” are factors that “affect the Israeli calculus and ours,” Ross, now a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said in an e-mail. “Qom is important, but it is worth remembering that IAEA inspectors go there, and I would not isolate Qom and say this alone is the Israeli red-line” to spur a military response.

Last month, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency reported Iran moved a large cylinder of 5 percent enriched uranium from the Natanz fuel enrichment plant to the Fordo facility near Qom. Iranian nuclear engineers have installed centrifuges that need only to be connected to cooling and electric lines to become operational, the IAEA said.

The Nov. 8 report went further than any previous public document in listing nuclear activities that inspectors said had no purpose other than for weapons capability. Iran insists its program is for peaceful energy and medical research.

Nuclear physicist David Albright, founder of the independent Institute for Science and International Security in Washington and a former weapons inspector, said in an interview yesterday that what concerns Israel most is Iran’s plan to triple the rate of enrichment by installing new generation centrifuges at Fordo that are being tested at the Natanz site.

“The program has gone slower than expected -- they’re having trouble building and operating the centrifuges, which could be the result of Stuxnet or other sabotage,” Albright said, referring to a computer worm that is believed to have damaged Iran’s centrifuges last year.

At the current rate, Albright said, it would likely take Iran till the end of 2013 to enrich enough 20 percent uranium to be further processed for use in one bomb. If Iran were to get three sets of new generation centrifuges working at Fordo and Natanz, they could produce enough material by the end of next year that could be further enriched to weapons-grade, he said.

“Where Israel would get more nervous is if Iran started to install hundreds of advanced centrifuges underground,” which would mean a “breakout capability over about six months,” Albright said, referring to the ability to enrich uranium to weapons-grade. And at Fordo, “there’s no way to blow it up because it’s 90 meters under rock.”

Iran only admitted the existence of the Fordo plant, built deep into a mountain south of the capital Tehran, in September 2009 after U.S., British and French intelligence agencies gathered information on the clandestine facility.

In Congress, growing concern has played out in a measure to sanction transactions with the Iranian central bank in an effort to choke off its overseas oil sales.

Iran is the world’s third-largest crude exporter and oil is Iran’s major source of income, supplying more
than 50 percent of the national budget, according to International Monetary Fund figures. The second-largest oil producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia, Iran exported an average 2.58 million barrels a day in 2010, according to OPEC statistics.

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Crashed Drone Was Looking for Nuke Sites
United Press International
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U.S. officials told CNN the U.S. drone that crashed in Iran last week was on a surveillance mission to seek out suspected nuclear sites.

The unnamed military officials said the Afghan government did not know the drone had used its territory to spy on Iran, and the CIA did not tell the U.S. Defense Department of the drone's mission, CNN reported.

The RQ-170 Sentinel is one of the most sophisticated U.S. drones and flies at up to 50,000 feet. CNN said it is designed to evade sophisticated air defense, and a former intelligence official poured cold water on Iranian claims it had been brought down by electronic counter-measures.

"It simply fell into their laps" after satellite communication was lost, the official said.

Moreover, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said Iran had nothing to do with bringing down the aircraft.

CNN said the former intelligence official cast doubt on the value of the drone to the Iranians. The sensors on the underbelly of the drone would have been badly damaged, he said, and coolant could have damaged the main computer.

Earlier, a former Pentagon official said the unmanned U.S. spy plane appears to be a fake.

The former official said the drone shown on display in Iran in video footage is not only the wrong color, but has welds along the wing joints that do not appear to conform to the stealth design intended to allow such drones to avoid radar detection, USA Today reported Thursday.

The official asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to release information on the matter.

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D.  Nuclear Cooperation

Japan PM Yoshihiko Noda's Visit to Push Stalled N-Deal Talks
Indo-Asian News Service
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India and Japan are set to resume nuclear negotiations next year, with New Delhi hoping that the forthcoming visit of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda this month will give a push to the talks that were stalled after the Fukushima disaster.

Noda touches down here Dec 27 on a three-day visit for annual summit talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This will be Noda's first visit to India since becoming the prime minister of Japan in September this year.

During their talks Dec 28, the two leaders are expected to discuss a wide spectrum of issues, including the prospects of civil nuclear cooperation, jointly combating piracy and terrorism, economic ties, climate change and the evolving East Asia architecture, well-placed sources told IANS.

The two leaders are expected to review the status of civil nuclear negotiations for which three rounds have been held but which came to a halt after the March 11 Fukushima radiation disaster and the political uncertainty that ensued in that country.

India is hoping that talks at the summit level will push the process of concluding a nuclear deal with Japan, a leader in civil nuclear technology that depends on nuclear power for around 40 percent of its energy needs. The successful talks can set the stage for a revival of nuclear negotiations early next year, said the sources.

After the Fukushima disaster, there have been positive developments which have brightened the prospects of revival of nuclear negotiations. Early this year, Japan removed seven Indian entities from its Foreign End User List this year, which included Indian Rare Earths Limited.

During his talks with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna in Tokyo in October, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba had conveyed Tokyo's readiness to resume nuclear talks. The two countries "will move forward in talks on the civilian nuclear cooperation pact while paying consideration to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation," Jiji Press quoted Gemba as saying after talks with Krishna.

Early this month, the Japanese parliament Diet approved atomic energy agreements with Jordan, Vietnam, Russia and South Korea, fuelling hopes in India of a likely nuclear deal with Tokyo next year.

On Friday, Noda declared the Fukushima site to be stable, indicating Tokyo's readiness to step up nuclear exports.

Nuclear negotiations with India, which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, have been a sensitive political subject in Japan, the only country that has been targeted by nuclear weapons.

The growing strategic proximity between New Delhi and Tokyo, as evidenced by the India-US-Japan trilateral dialogue which will be held in Washington next week, and the desire of Japan, whose economy is not doing too well, to expand trade and investment with India could also prod Tokyo to step up nuclear negotiations with New Delhi to get a share of the $150 billion nuclear market. A nuclear deal with Japan is necessary for India to implement the India-US nuclear deal as leading American nuclear companies like GE and Westinghouse are partly owned by Japanese companies.

The two sides have exchanged draft texts of a bilateral nuclear pact and are making progress on bridging differences, said the sources.

Japan has urged India to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and has made it clear that a nuclear test by India would lead to the termination of civil nuclear cooperation.

Given its history as a nuclear-averse pacifist nation and strong anti-nuclear domestic constituency, Japan is insisting on additional non-proliferation commitments, which are much beyond what India has agreed to in its 123 agreement with the US, said the sources.

However, Indian officials are hoping that a middle ground can be found which could accommodate the concerns and priorities of both sides.

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India and Russia Fail to Extend Nuclear Plant Plan
BBC News
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Indian PM Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have failed to sign a deal to extend a controversial nuclear project.

On his two-day visit to Russia, Mr Singh said work on two units at the Koodankulam plant in Tamil Nadu would be completed.

But there was no deal on units three and four. The $3bn nuclear plant has been beset by protests over safety.

Russia has also backed India's bid for a permanent UN Security Council seat.

At the talks, India also signed a deal for 42 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets.

Mr Singh said unit one at Koodankulam would be operational in a "couple of weeks" and unit two would be commissioned within six months, the Press Trust of India reported.

He said "temporary problems" with protests over safety would be overcome.

The contract for the other two units had been expected to be signed but this did not take place.
Before the talks, Mr Singh said India would fulfil its commitments on increased nuclear cooperation with Russia.

Russia has been a major supplier of planes for the Indian air force.

"The protests at Koodankulam reflect the concerns of people about the safety of nuclear energy," Mr Singh told Russian media.

He said the government took people's concerns "seriously", but that nuclear cooperation between India and Russia "would continue".

Mr Singh and Mr Medvedev also discussed other defence and economic issues.

A joint statement said Russia backed India's bid for a permanent UN Security Council seat and urged reform of the council, to make it "more representative and effective".

Mr Singh said India would assemble the new Sukhoi Su-30MKI jets and fit them with additional electronics.

The two countries have had close links since Soviet times.

A Cold War ally and for many years the default weapons supplier to India, Russia has faced tough competition in recent years from Europe and the US for a slice of Delhi's booming defence market.

Wary of its rising regional rival, China, India is now one of the world's largest buyers of fighter jets, tanks, submarines and other defence equipment.

Russia also has other contracts with India, in particular the modernisation of weapons already delivered. By one estimate, 80% of India's army is equipped with Russian hardware.

Delhi and Moscow have also agreed to double bilateral trade from the current $9bn over the next four years.

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India Offers to Sell Surplus Heavy Water
Indo-Asian News Service
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India's Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is looking for an agent who will help globally market heavy water, used to run nuclear reactors, that it is producing and is currently in surplus.

A tender floated by the DAE invites 'global expression of interest from agencies of international repute for providing global sales representative service to the DAE for export of heavy water to various countries'.

Heavy water is so called because the hydrogen atom in the water is replaced by its heavier cousin, deuterium. It looks and tastes very much like ordinary water but is used to run nuclear reactors that produce plutonium, a bomb material. Heavy water is used as a 'moderator' and 'coolant' in research reactors such as DAE's Dhruva reactor in Trombay, Mumbai, or in power reactors like the ones in Narora, Uttar Pradesh.

Currently, India makes heavy water in six plants operated by the Heavy Water Board (HWB), a unit of the DAE. Their total production is classified information.

Rajnish Prakash, chairman of the Heavy Water Board, declined to disclose the quantity of surplus heavy water available for sale or how much of it is produced in the country.

'These are strategic questions I cannot answer,' Prakash told IANS.

In the 1980s, India was short of heavy water as was revealed in the 1988 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India that the total heavy water production from 1978 through 1986 was about 190 tonnes, far short of the 600 tonnes needed to run the country's four unsafeguarded reactors.

India was even accused of importing heavy water clandestinely from Norway and Russia to run its reactors - an allegation that was stoutly denied by the government.

A DAE official who did not want to be named admitted that India did face heavy water shortage in the 1980s but has now moved to become an exporter of this strategic material.

However, it is not the first time India will be exporting heavy water. 'We have earlier exported to South Korea and China and a small quantity (4.4 tonnes) to the US,' he said.

India, which commissioned its first heavy water plant at Nangal in Punjab in August 1962, is today one of the largest manufacturers of heavy water in the world with production facilities at Vadodara (Gujarat), Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu), Kota (Rajasthan), Thal (Maharashtra), Hazira (Gujarat) and Manuguru (Andhra Pradesh).

India's nuclear programme based on pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR) requires a steady stream of heavy water at the time of commissioning a new reactor and for replenishing the loss of heavy water in operating reactors.

A rule of thumb is that for every megawatt of power from a PHWR, the initial coolant and moderator inventory requirements of heavy water is about one tonne.

DAE plans to build 12 new PHWR reactors of 700 MW each starting 2012 - which means India will require an inventory of at least 8,000 tonnes of heavy water.

'All our plants are operating well and we can fully meet our future requirements of heavy water,' R.V. Gupta, director of operations at the HVB, told IANS. 'Only the surplus is available for sale.'

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E.  Nuclear Energy

Czech Guarantees Possible for Temelin Expansion-Paper
Jason Hovet
(for personal use only)

Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas does not rule out some form of state support for CEZ's multi-billion dollar expansion of its Temelin nuclear power plant, newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes reported on Friday.

CEZ, central Europe's largest listed company, is holding talks with the government over possible state guarantees for the construction of two nuclear reactors at the 2,000 megawatt Temelin plant near the Austrian border, he was quoted saying, though he also said it was too soon to say what support the expansion could get.

The company's director for nuclear power plant construction, Petr Zavodsky, told Reuters earlier this month the majority state-owned power utility may seek to secure guaranteed rates for power production to fund the expansion of Temelin.

"At a time when the whole European Union finds itself in uncertainty regarding its future, it is likely that for any big infrastructure projects, from airports to highways to power plants, bigger state activity will be needed," Necas was quoted saying in the paper.

"Currently the tender for the supplier of the Temelin expansion is going on, so we are concentrating on that so that we pick well."

Bidders for Temelin include Toshiba Corp unit Westinghouse, France's Areva and an alliance of Russia's Atomstroyexport and Czech company Skoda JS.

The government plans to choose the winning bid in 2013.

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F.  Links of Interest

After Kim Jong-Il
The New Yorker
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Japan Says the Worst Is Over, but Fukushima Faces Long Road to Recovery
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What Happened to Obama's Nuclear Option?
Mother Jones
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Areva Talks Temelín Bid
The Prague Post
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