1. Iranian Plane Searched by Turkey but No Illicit Cargo Found
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Turkish authorities searched an Iranian plane Wednesday after forcing it to land on suspicion it was carrying illicit nuclear material to Syria, security sources said.
The plane, instructed to land at Diyarbakir airport as it overflew eastern Turkey on its way to Syria, was found to be carrying 150 tons of food but no "material contrary to international standards," the sources added.
After several hours of search on the plane for military or nuclear related cargo onboard, the aircraft took off at 1330 GMT, an AFP correspondent at the scene saw.
Anti-nuclear, biological and chemical material unit of civilian defence teams took part in the inspection of the plane as well, Anatolia news agency reported.
The UN nuclear watchdog agency has been probing allegations since 2008 that Syria had been building an undeclared reactor at a remote desert site called Dair Alzour until it was bombed by Israeli planes in September 2007.
Damascus granted UN inspectors one-off access to the site in June 2008 but no follow-up visits to either Dair Alzour or other possible related sites since then.
Earlier this month, the head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, complained that Syria "has not cooperated with the agency since June 2008."
The Iranian plane took off from Tehran on Tuesday night bound for the Syrian city of Aleppo. It landed in Turkey upon order of Turkish foreign ministry, security sources said.
Two Turkish F-16 fighter planes were put on standby to intervene if the Iranian plane did not obey the orders of Diyarbakir airport officials, the same sources said.
However, a Turkish diplomatic source told AFP that the plane's landing was a "routine" practice.
The plane was allowed to continue for its destination, as no extraordinary situation occured during the "regular" search, the Turkish foreign ministry spokesperson Selcuk Unal said, Anatolia reported.
On Tuesday, Israeli naval commandos operating deep in international waters boarded a ship carrying arms allegedly on their way from Iran to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
Israel said the Panamanian-flagged ship had sailed from the Turkish port of Mersin and was heading for Alexandria in Egypt, but that the arms originated in Iran.
The Israeli military said it believed the weapons were loaded in the Syrian port of Latakia, and stressed that Turkey was in no way involved.
The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions, including an arms embargo, on Iran over its refusal to halt its uranium enrichment programme which the West suspects hides a drive to build nuclear weapons.
Tehran denies the charges and insists its nuclear program is solely geared toward electrity generation.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iRqJXGyUQrywK7tnWmyBYMDKSdlw?docId=CNG.e314ba0dc0a9061349e6fe1072be714a.611
1. North Korea 'Ready to Discuss Nuclear Enrichment'
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North Korea has told Russia's deputy foreign minister Alexei Borodavkin that it is ready to discuss its nuclear enrichment plans at six-party talks.
The issue is one of several that have blocked the resumption of disarmament talks. South Korea also wants an apology for the North's "aggression".
Separately, a South Korean envoy is on his way to Russia to pursue talks.
The new flurry of diplomacy comes just over a month after talks between North and South Korea broke up in acrimony.
North Korea's state news agency, KCNA, reported comments from Pyongyang's foreign ministry after a four-day visit by Mr Borodavkin.
"The DPRK (North Korea) is willing to come to the six-party talks unconditionally," Pyongyang's foreign ministry said.
KCNA quoted a ministry spokesman as saying that the North did "not object to the issue of uranium enrichment programme being discussed at the talks".
Mr Borodavkin held meetings with the North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-Chun and other North Korean officials, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.
Nuclear fears South Korea's deputy envoy to the six-party disarmament talks, Cho Hyun-Dong, has left Seoul on his way to Russia where he plans to meet Mr Borodavkin and other officials.
The existence of an apparently functioning nuclear enrichment plant in the North was only revealed to the US last November.
Pyongyang says it is part of a peaceful energy programme, but the US and others have expressed fears it could be part of what they believe is the North's nuclear weapons programme.
The six-party disarmament talks - involving North and South Korea, China, Japan, the United States and Russia - have been stalled for two years.
North Korea left the talks in April 2009 and staged a second nuclear test in May that year.
Calls by South Korea and Russia for the United Nations Security Council to debate the North's nuclear programme have so far been rebuffed by China.
South Korea has been seeking an apology from the North for its shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, and for the sinking of a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, in March last year, which resulted in the loss of 46 South Korean lives.
North Korea denies sinking the ship and says the shelling was provoked by South Korean military exercises.
Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12742016
2. South Korea's Deputy Nuclear Envoy Visits Moscow for Talks on North Korean Uranium
Yonhap News Agency
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Seoul's deputy nuclear envoy left for Moscow Tuesday to meet with his Russian counterparts over North Korea's uranium enrichment program and the six-party denuclearization-for-aid talks, the foreign ministry said Tuesday.
During his three-day visit, Cho Hyun-dong will hold talks with Moscow's chief nuclear envoy, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin, and his deputy, Grigory Logvinov, to discuss common measures against North Korea's nuclear programs, a ministry official said.
Cho's trip comes after Borodavkin's recent visit to Pyongyang, during which the deputy minister met with senior officials from the North's foreign ministry, including Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun.
In Moscow, the two sides are expected to discuss the North's stance toward its own uranium enrichment plant, which has drawn much international concern over its potential to be used in building atomic bombs, as well as setting the right conditions for restarting the stalled six-way talks.
Russia is a key player in regional and global efforts to dismantle Pyongyang's nuclear programs as a member of the six-party forum -- also involving the two Koreas, China, Japan and the U.S. -- and a veto-wielding permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
Russia has been critical of the North's uranium enrichment facility revealed in November, saying it constitutes a violation of U.N. resolutions and the communist regime's own commitment to give up nuclear programs. North Korea insists the plant is producing fuel for power generation.
Moscow has also been largely supportive of a Security Council discussion of the uranium enrichment program, a move that Seoul and Washington are pushing for in the face of opposition from Beijing, another veto-holding council member.
As North Korea's staunch ally, China has resisted any move that could provoke Pyongyang, apparently fearing the negative consequences it could have on China's own economic and political interests.
As an alternative way of dealing with the North's uranium enrichment program, Beijing has suggested promptly reopening the six-party talks and discussing the issue within the forum. South Korea says the U.N. should first define the illicit nature of the uranium enrichment facility so as to preempt the North from claiming it is for peaceful purposes when the six-way negotiations on denuclearizing the North resume.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2011/03/15/29/0401000000AEN20110315003300315F.HTML
1. Japan Prepares to Restart Work at Nuclear Plant
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Nuclear plant operators trying to avoid complete reactor meltdowns said Thursday that they were close to completing a new power line that might end Japan's crisis, but several ominous signs have also emerged: a surge in radiation levels, unexplained white smoke and spent fuel rods that U.S. officials said could be on the verge of spewing radioactive material.
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said in Washington on Wednesday that all the water was gone from the spent fuel pools at Unit 4 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex, but Japanese officials denied it. Hajime Motojuku, spokesman for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., said the "condition is stable" at Unit 4.
If Jaczko is correct, it would mean there's nothing to stop the fuel rods from getting hotter and ultimately melting down. The outer shells of the rods could also ignite with enough force to propel the radioactive fuel inside over a wide area.
Jaczko did not say how the information was obtained, but the NRC and U.S. Department of Energy both have experts at the complex of six reactors along Japan's northeastern coast, which was ravaged by last week's magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
The conditions at the plant appeared to worsen, with white smoke pouring from the complex and a surge in radiation levels forcing workers to retreat for hours Wednesday from their struggle to cool the overheating reactors.
As international concern mounted, the chief of the U.N. nuclear agency said he would go to Japan to assess what he called a "serious" situation and urged Tokyo to provide better information to his organization.
Japanese officials raised hopes of easing the crisis, saying early Thursday that they were close to completing a new power line that could restore the reactors' cooling systems.
Naoki Tsunoda, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co., or TEPCO, said the new power line to the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant was almost finished and that officials planned to try it "as soon as possible," but he could not say exactly when.
The new line could revive electric-powered pumps, allowing the company to maintain a steady water supply to troubled reactors and spent fuel storage ponds, keeping them cool. The company is also trying to repair its existing disabled power line.
Late Wednesday, government officials said they'd asked special police units to bring in water cannons — normally used to quell rioters — to spray water onto the spent fuel storage pool at Unit 4.
The cannons are thought to be strong enough to allow emergency workers to remain a safe distance from the complex while still able to get water into the pool, said Minoru Ogoda of Japan's nuclear safety agency.
TEPCO said it was also considering using military helicopters to douse the reactors with water, after giving up on such a plan because of high radiation levels in the atmosphere.
Wednesday's pullback by workers who have been pumping seawater into the reactors cost valuable time in the fight to prevent a nuclear meltdown, a nightmare scenario following the horrific earthquake and tsunami. The disasters last Friday pulverized Japan's northeastern coast and are feared to have killed more than 10,000 people.
The tsunami destroyed the complex's backup power system and left operators unable to properly cool nuclear fuel. The 180 emergency workers have been working in shifts to manually pump seawater into the reactors.
Japan's emperor, in an unprecedented made-for-TV speech, called on the country to work together.
"It is important that each of us shares the difficult days that lie ahead," said Akihito, 77. "I pray that we will all take care of each other and overcome this tragedy."
He also expressed his worries over the nuclear crisis, saying: "With the help of those involved I hope things will not get worse."
But officials are also taking increasing criticism for poor communication about efforts at the complex. There has been growing unease at the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency's 35 board member nations, who have complained that information coming from Japan on the rapidly evolving nuclear disaster is too slow and vague.
IAEA head Yukiya Amano spoke of a "very serious" situation and said he would leave for Tokyo within a day.
He said it was "difficult to say" if events were out of control, but added, "I will certainly have contact with those people who are working there who tackled the accident, and I will be able to have firsthand information."
The nuclear crisis has partly overshadowed the human tragedy caused by Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake, one of the strongest recorded in history.
Millions of Japanese have been with little food and water in heavy snow and rain since Friday. In some towns, long lines of cars waited outside the few open gas stations, with others lined up at rice-vending machines.
National broadcaster NHK showed mammoth military helicopters lifting off Friday afternoon to survey radiation levels above the nuclear complex, preparing to dump water onto the most troubled reactors in an effort to cool them down.
The defense ministry later said those flights were a drill — then later said it had decided against making an airborne drop because of the high radiation levels.
"The anxiety and anger being felt by people in Fukushima have reached a boiling point," the governor of Fukushima prefecture, Yuhei Sato, fumed in an interview with NHK. He criticized preparations for an evacuation if conditions worsen, and said centers do not have enough hot meals and basic necessities.
More than 4,300 people are officially listed as dead, but officials believe the toll will climb to well over 10,000. Police say more than 452,000 people are staying in temporary shelters such as school gymnasiums.
Wednesday's radiation spike was believed to have come from the complex's Unit 3. But officials also acknowledged that they were far from sure what was going on at the four most troubled reactors, including Unit 3, in part because high radiation levels made it difficult to get very close.
While white smoke was seen rising Wednesday above Unit 3, officials could not ascertain the source. They said it could be spewing from the reactor's spent fuel pool — cooling tanks for used nuclear rods — or may have been from damage to the reactor's containment vessel, the protective shell of thick concrete.
Masahisa Otsuki, an official with TEPCO, said officials are most concerned about the spent fuel pools, which are not encased in protective shells.
"We haven't been able to get any of the latest data at any spent fuel pools. We don't have the latest water levels, temperatures, none of the latest information for any of the four reactors," he said.
In the city of Fukushima, meanwhile, about 40 miles (60 kilometers) inland from the nuclear complex, hundreds of harried government workers, police officers and others struggled to stay on top of the situation in a makeshift command center.
An entire floor of one of the prefecture's office buildings had been taken over by people tracking evacuations, power needs, death tolls and food supplies.
Elevated levels of radiation were detected well outside the 20-mile (30-kilometer) emergency area around the plants. In Ibaraki prefecture, just south of Fukushima, officials said radiation levels were about 300 times normal levels by late morning. It would take three years of constant exposure to these higher levels to raise a person's risk of cancer.
A little radiation was also detected in Tokyo, triggering panic buying of food and water.
Given the reported radiation levels, John Price, an Australian-based nuclear safety expert, said he saw few health risks for the general public so far. But he said he was surprised by how little information the Japanese were sharing.
"We don't know even the fundamentals of what's happening, what's wrong, what isn't working. We're all guessing," he said. "I would have thought they would put on a panel of experts every two hours."
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the government expects to ask the U.S. military for help, though he did not elaborate. He said the government is still considering whether to accept offers of help from other countries.
There are six reactors at the plant. Units 1, 2 and 3, which were operating last week, shut down automatically when the quake hit. Since then, all three have been rocked by explosions. Compounding the problems, on Tuesday a fire broke out in Unit 4's fuel storage pond, an area where used nuclear fuel is kept cool, causing radioactivity to be released into the atmosphere.
Units 4, 5 and 6 were shut at the time of the quake, but even offline reactors have nuclear fuel — either inside the reactors or in storage ponds — that need to be kept cool.
Meanwhile, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency estimated that 70 percent of the rods have been damaged at the No. 1 reactor.
Japan's national news agency, Kyodo, said that 33 percent of the fuel rods at the No. 2 reactor were damaged and that the cores of both reactors were believed to have partially melted.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hr2sPhUE6ja0EMclJeUeGSQAON-g?docId=7e3dd7128b804f5d965554ff69375e76
2. Spain to Inspect All Nuclear Power Plants in Country
Xinhua News Agency
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The Spanish government said Wednesday it would carry out a full inspection of all its nuclear power plants, in the wake of the disasterous earthquake in Japan.
The inspection will include an assessment of the risks posed to the plants as a result of seismic activity and possible flooding.
The announcement came a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was closing down all of the reactors in Germany that were over 30 years old prior to investigations into their safety.
Miguel Sebastian, the minister of industry, commerce and tourism, insisted, however, that he had full confidence in the safety of Spain's nuclear installations. He said that the country's Nuclear Security Council was closely following events in Japan.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero confirmed that Spain would carry out a "rigorous examination of the security conditions."
What we are going to do now is make extra sure. Japan has to serve as an experience from which we can all draw conclusions, which are thought through and scientifically backed up which can sustain the resulting political decisions," the prime minister said.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez said that if need be the government would act to repatriate the 1,852 Spanish nationals currently living in Japan.
"We are not going to withhold any resources or efforts to ensure that our nationals are safe. We will put all of our resources that are necessary at their disposition," Jimenez said from Aman, where she is currently on a short tour of the Middle East.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-03/16/c_13782279.htm
Experts say a weakness in the design of Japan's nuclear reactors -- a design going back to the 1960s -- may be a factor in the country's developing catastrophe.
Warnings about the Mark 1 nuclear reactor design were being sounded as far back as 1972, focused on what would happen to the primary containment vessel surrounding the reactor if cooling systems failed, as has happened in Japan's ongoing earthquake-tsunami disaster, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The containment vessel, typically made of steel and concrete, is designed to prevent melting fuel rods from spewing radiation into the environment if cooling efforts completely fail.
Most installations around the world use a type of system, known as a pressurized water reactor, which is sealed inside a thick, steel-and-cement tomb.
But the type of containment vessel and pressure suppression system used in the failing reactors at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant are physically less robust, and have long been considered more susceptible to failure in an emergency than other, newer designs.
The Mark 1 boiling water reactors were developed by General Electric and marketed as less expensive and easier to build, based partly on their comparatively smaller and less costly containment structures, the Times reported.
In 1972, an Atomic Energy Commission safety official said the sort of "pressure-suppression" system used in G.E.'s Mark 1 plants presented unacceptable safety risks and it should be discontinued.
Among concerns raised by Stephen Hanauer in his 1972 memo was that the smaller containment design was more susceptible to explosion and rupture from a buildup in hydrogen, a situation that may have led to the recent blasts at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Available at: http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2011/03/15/Design-of-Japans-nuclear-plants-faulted/UPI-92171300224148/
Shocked into action by Japan's atomic crisis, European energy officials agreed Tuesday to apply stress tests on nuclear power plants and Germany moved to switch off seven aging reactors — one of them permanently.
The European Union's energy chief called for a reassessment of the 27-nation bloc's energy policy, and questioned what role nuclear power should have in the future.
"We have to ask ourselves: Can we in Europe, within time, secure our energy needs without nuclear power plants?" EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told German ARD television.
Energy ministers, nuclear regulators and industry officials meeting in Brussels found "general agreement" on the need for tough tests to check whether the EU's 143 nuclear reactors could withstand earthquakes and other emergencies, Oettinger said.
The stress tests will be devised using the "strictest" nuclear standards in the bloc and be applied in second half of the year, he said, adding that plants that fail the tests would have to shut down.
"The authority of the test must be so high, that those responsible will have to live by the consequences," Oettinger said.
He invited non-EU nations including Russia and Switzerland to join the initiative.
Earlier Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that seven reactors that went into operation before 1980 would be offline for three months while Europe's biggest economy reconsiders its plans to extend the life of its atomic power plants.
One of them, the Neckarwestheim I reactor, would remain shut down for good. Residents said living in the shadow of the 35-year-old nuclear plant is making them increasingly nervous in the wake of the events in Japan.
"It must be switched off," 32-year-old Anja Pfau told AP Television News as she pushed her 5-month-old boy along the street in a pram. "There are enough alternative energies like water power and solar energy."
A previous government decided a decade ago to shut all 17 German nuclear reactors by 2021, but Merkel's administration last year moved to extend their lives by an average 12 years. That decision was suspended for three months.
Oettinger said no other EU country had followed Germany's move to shut down old reactors. Switzerland, which is not in the EU, on Monday suspended plans to replace and build new nuclear plants pending a review of the tsunamiicken reactors in Japan.
Energy policies in the EU are still driven independently by member nations and vary hugely. For example, France gets about 84 percent of its energy from nuclear power, while Poland relies mostly on coal and solid fuels.
Though earthquakes are rare in Germany and tend to be weak, Merkel said effects of the Japan temblor made clear that the measures taken there to protect nuclear plants were insufficient — justifying a review of precautions elsewhere.
"This has shown that the design of the nuclear plants were not sufficient against the forces of nature," she said.
Merkel said she has already spoken with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, agreeing to bring up nuclear safety as a topic at the G-20 summit in France at the end of the month. Oettinger expected an EU summit next week would also focus on that issue.
Separately from the EU stress test initiative, France ordered safety checks of its 58 nuclear reactors to determine their capacity to resist earthquakes or floods. Prime Minister Francois Fillon called it "absurd" to say that explosions at a Japanese nuclear plant will "condemn" nuclear energy.
But there was no avoiding a psychological impact from the events in Japan, even as the problems at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant got worse on Tuesday.
"This might have dark and difficult consequences. But we still really don't know what the results will be. Thereafter we'll be able to judge what is of relevance for our security work," Swedish Environment minister Andreas Carlgren said ahead of Tuesday's meeting in Brussels.
The more than 100 Cabinet ministers, regulators and nuclear industry officials looked at how to confront emergencies and what can be done better, with special emphasis on what kind of emergency power supply and backup systems are in place.
Only half the EU nations produce nuclear energy but any serious accident would soon involve all.
In Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country is not an EU member, said he had no plans to suspend a deal with Russia's Rosatom agency for the construction of Turkey's first nuclear power plant.
Dismissing questions on possible dangers, Erdogan said all investments have high risks. "In that case, let's not bring gas canisters to our homes, let's not install natural gas, let's not stream crude oil through our country," he said.
Russia signed another deal with Belarus on Tuesday to build a nuclear power station there. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the facility would be safer than that threatend by meltdown in Japan.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5im1TzMmsPqcAzFQ12j-eLSGFTWeg?docId=9f9a028d288940778be224d00ae3c246
5. India Nuke Plants Face Threat From Terror Groups: Minister
Xinhua News Agency
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Indian nuclear plants face threat from various terrorist organizations even as government agencies periodically review the security of the atomic installations, an Indian minister said Tuesday
Indian Minister of State for Home Mullappally Ramachandran said in view of the prevailing security scenario, the atomic power plants continue to be the targets of various terrorist groups.
"Central security agencies review security of atomic power plants periodically and make specific recommendation to enhance the security wherever required," he said.
"The central security agencies also conduct regular sensitisation programmes for senior officials of these plants and share threat inputs at appropriate level of the Department of Atomic Energy and state governments concerned from time to time," the minister said.
"The central industrial security force has been mandated to undertake security arrangements for all sensitive nuclear installations. Besides, departmental security personnel are also deployed to assist the force in providing security to the installations," he said.
India has 20 nuclear reactors in operation in six power plants.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-03/15/c_13780035.htm
1. EDF Says Nuclear Industry in ‘Difficult’ Position After Japan
Tara Patel, Bloomberg
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Electricite de France SA Chief Executive Officer Henri Proglio said explosions at Japanese nuclear reactors have put the atomic industry in a “difficult situation.”
“We can’t erase the good of nuclear just by looking at the drama of a terrible accident,” Proglio said in an interview on RTL radio today. “It’s a difficult situation for any industry whatever it may be. All airplane accidents create difficulties for the aeronautical industry. It doesn’t end airplanes.”
The utility is ready to send equipment such as robots and detectors to aid Tokyo Electric Power Co. to gain control of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant and has a team of nuclear workers that could also be sent to help, Proglio said. The utility is sending two metric tons of boron to Japan.
EDF operates France’s 58 nuclear reactors that provide the country with more than three quarters of its power production, making the country Europe’s most dependent on atomic energy. Prime Minister Francois Fillon yesterday said that while it would be “absurd” to halt nuclear energy following the Japanese accident, the country’s plants would be inspected to determine how well they would withstand earthquakes and floods.
“Building confidence is now essential for our industry,” Areva SA (CEI) Chief Executive Officer Anne Lauvergeon said at a parliamentary hearing today. The reactor designer is ready for “extremely stringent” rules for building new reactors in the future.
EDF will stick to its plan to extend the lifetime of French nuclear reactors, which will cost an estimated 40 billion euros ($55.9 billion), Proglio said, adding aging plants don’t pose a threat as EDF undergoes about 500 inspections by safety authorities annually.
“We have a very high level of safety in France,” Industry Minister Eric Besson said on RMC radio. “Our nuclear reactors are in better shape than we expected.”
A debate in France on the merits of nuclear energy is “inevitable and legitimate,” Besson said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided yesterday to halt seven of Germany’s 17 reactors including two in Baden- Wuerttemberg, where her party is battling to retain its 59-year -hold on the state in a March 27 vote. Polls indicate a neck- and-neck race between the local Christian Democrat Union-led coalition and opposition parties including the anti-nuclear Greens.
The decision is “purely political” and was “made at a moment of dramatic circumstances and electoral climate,” Proglio said. “Nuclear is a formidable source of energy.”
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-16/edf-says-nuclear-industry-in-difficult-position-after-japan.html
2. Indonesia to Continue Planning for Nuclear Power Plants
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Indonesia will continue planning to build nuclear power plants in the earthquake prone archipelago, despite a nuclear radiation crisis threatening Japan, an official from the national energy board said on Wednesday.
Southeast Asia's largest economy is seeing strong economic growth but power supply -- mostly from coal-fired plants -- has been struggling to keep up and brownouts are common.
"In relation to nuclear, we are sticking with the bill for long term development which says we must have nuclear power plants by 2019," said Effendi.
The nuclear power industry globally has taken a beating as governments addressed its safety and investors bailed out of stocks after an earthquake and resulting tsunami damaged a Japanese nuclear power plant, which has sent low levels of radiation wafting into Tokyo.
"We know that of course we have to be careful," said Effendi, adding he expects parliament to pass a regulation this month on long-term energy policies, including nuclear power.
However, this regulation was submitted a year ago to lawmakers and the parliament is slow to approve bills, and it takes years to plan and construct nuclear plants.
While Indonesia made a presentation to the International Atomic Energy Agency last month saying it was planning "in earnest" for nuclear power, the government's chief economic minister Hatta Rajasa played down the possibility on Wednesday.
"As long as we have alternative energy or mixed energy, nuclear is the last option. It's not that we are not open to it, but it's the last option," said Rajasa.
Indonesia is considering three sites for nuclear power plants: Muria in central Java island, Banten in western Java and on the Bangka Belitung islands off Sumatra.
All are on the northern side of the island chain that has a earthquake prone fault line along the southern coast, that led to the deadly 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Banten is close to the active Krakatoa volcano, while the Muria plan has drawn opposition from residents and environmental groups.
Slovakia is interested in investing in three potential nuclear power plants in the Bangka Belitung islands, and the two countries are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding during the visit of Slovakian President Ivan Gasparovic to Indonesia on June 12, local newspaper Koran Tempo reported last week.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/16/indonesia-energy-nuclear-idUSL3E7EG19120110316
3. Japan's Woes Prompt Venezuela to Halt Nuclear Plan
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President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday that the crisis at a Japanese nuclear plant after the country's catastrophic earthquake and tsunami have prompted him to halt Venezuela's plans to develop nuclear energy.
Chavez announced last year that his government was carrying out initial studies to start a nuclear energy program.
Russia's government had agreed to help Venezuela build a reactor last year during a visit to Moscow by Chavez. But Chavez said watching events unfold in Japan has prompted him to reconsider.
"It's something extremely risky and dangerous for the whole world because despite the great technology and advances that Japan has, look at what is happening with some nuclear reactors," Chavez said in a televised speech.
Chavez warned that radioactive material from Japan's damaged plants could pose a threat to neighbors such as China. "We pray to God that... it doesn't have serious impacts on the population of Japan and other neighboring nations," he said.
Chavez said he had ordered his vice president and energy minister to "freeze the plans that we have been moving forward with, some very preliminary studies" toward starting a nuclear program.
Chavez said he believes the problems at the Japanese nuclear reactors will make other countries aside from Venezuela reconsider the need for nuclear programs.
"I don't have the slightest doubt that this will alter... in a strong way nuclear energy development plans in the world," Chavez said. He also predicted that would increase demand for oil "in the short, medium and long term."
Venezuela is a major oil exporter.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iXfpf0B2W7C-umehLcRDbTpvMyOQ?docId=b7c69f7f0d6f451e90726667aa2f3a29
4. Russia to Give RUB 6bln Loan to Belarus for Nuclear Power Plant Building
Itar-Tass News Agency
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Russia will give Belarus a loan of about 6 billion US dollars on the construction of the first Belarusian nuclear power station. The agreement could be concluded within a month, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said at a press conference.
“The loan amount for Belarus will be about 6 billion US dollars,” said Putin. “The agreement will be concluded within a month,” he added.
Russia and Belarus on Tuesday, March 15, signed an agreement on cooperation in the construction of a nuclear power in the republic. In the presence of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister of Belarus Mikhail Myasnikovich, head of the Russian State Nuclear Energy Corporation Rosatom Sergei Kiriyenko and Belarusian Energy Minister Alexander Ozerets signed an agreement on cooperation.
According to Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich, the construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus will strengthen the Belarusian energy system and create a technological basis for a common electricity market of Russia and Belarus, to which Kazakhstan may accede in the future.
The first unit of the nuclear power plant is planned to be commissioned in 2017. The general contractor of the project is Russia’s Atomstroiexport company. The nuclear power plant will be built in Astravets (Grodno region).
Available at: http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/level2.html?NewsID=16049973&PageNum=0
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