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Nuclear News - 4/26/2011
PGS Nuclear News, April 26, 2011
Compiled By: Matthew Kapuscinski

A.  Iran
    1. Iran Says It Has Uncovered Second Cyber Attack, Associated Press (4/25/2011)
    2. Iran to Host International Disarmament Conference, Xinhua News Agency (4/24/2011)
    1. Koreas' Nuke Dialogue No Stopover for 6-Party Talks, Kim Young-jin , The Korea Times (4/25/2011)
    2. North Korea Visit to Focus on Food Crisis: Carter, Robert Saiget, AFP (4/25/2011)
    3. North Korea Repeats Harsh Rhetoric Amid Diplomatic Moves to Revive Nuclear Talks, Yonhap News Agency (4/24/2011)
C.  Japan
    1. Government Decides Specifics of Nuke Crisis Evacuees' Brief Hometown Visits, The Mainichi Daily News (4/26/2011)
    2. Health Risks Numerous Near Nuclear Plant, UPI (4/25/2011)
    3. Tepco Pumps Tainted Water From Reactor Trenches, Adds Backup Power Cables, Yuji Okada and Michio Nakayama, Bloomberg (4/25/2011)
    4. Workers Locked in Battle at Fukushima, Exposure to Radiation Rising, The Mainichi Daily News (4/24/2011)
D.  Nuclear Safety
    1. South Korean Minister Stresses Nuclear Safety, Yonhap News Agency (4/25/2011)
    2. AFP: Bulgarian Nuclear Plant at Kozloduy Faced EU Stress Test, FOCUS News Agency (4/24/2011)
E.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Austrian Chancellor Calls for Nuclear-Free Future, CNBC (4/25/2011)
    2. Nuclear Phase-Out to Cost Germany $48 Billion, Welt Reports, Bloomberg (4/24/2011)
    3. Nuclear Power Must Be Expanded: Plan Panel, The Hindu (4/22/2011)
    4. Belarus to Build Nuclear Power Plant Whatever the Cost, Itar-Tass News Agency (4/21/2011)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. Tepco to Use Temporary Tanks to Store Radioactive Water, Tsuyoshi Inajima, Bloomberg (4/23/2011)
    2. Chernobyl Nuke Cleanup to be Costly for Decades, Associated Press (4/22/2011)

A.  Iran

Iran Says It Has Uncovered Second Cyber Attack
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Iran has been hit by a second computer virus, a senior military official said Monday, suggesting it was part of a concerted campaign to undermine the country's disputed nuclear program.

Gholam Reza Jalali, the head of an Iranian military unit in charge of combatting sabotage, said that experts discovered the "espionage virus," which he called "Stars."

"The Stars virus has been presented to the laboratory but is still being investigated," Jalali said in a report posted Monday on his organization's website, "No definite and final conclusions have been reached."

He did not say what equipment or facilities the virus targeted, or when experts first detected it.

"Stars" is the second serious computer worm to hit Iran in the past eight months. Late last year, a powerful virus known as Stuxnet targeted the country's nuclear facilities and other industrial sites.

Iran has acknowledged that Stuxnet affected a limited number of centrifuges — a key component in the production of nuclear fuel — at its main uranium enrichment facility in the central city of Natanz. But Tehran has said its scientists discovered and neutralized the malware before it could cause serious damage.

Jalali downplayed the impact of Stars, but said it is "harmonious" with computer systems and "inflicts minor damage in the initial stage and might be mistaken for executive files of governmental organizations."

A separate unit has also been set up by Iran's Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications to decode incoming computer viruses and neutralize them, Jalali said.

Last week, Jalali said Stuxnet could have caused large-scale accidents and loss of life and claimed that Iranian experts have determined that the United States and Israel were behind the malware, which can take over the control systems of industrial sites like power plants.

The U.S. and its allies suspect Iran's nuclear program aims to develop atomic weapons. Iran denies the charges, and says the program is only for peaceful purposes.

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Iran to Host International Disarmament Conference
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

Iran plans to hold international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation conference in mid-June, the local ISNA news agency reported on Sunday.

It would be Iran's second conference on nuclear disarmament which is scheduled for June 12-13 and mainly will seek examination of current challenges on nuclear disarmament and other Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), said the report.

Tehran hosted the first international disarmament conference on April 18-19, 2010.

After U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev met in Washington on May 13, 2010 to cooperate on nuclear disarmament, Iranian Majlis (Parliament) Speaker Ali Larijani criticized the United States saying that the U.S. was not ready to have a timetable for disarmament.

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Koreas' Nuke Dialogue No Stopover for 6-Party Talks
Kim Young-jin
The Korea Times
(for personal use only)

Unification Minister Hyun In-taek Monday urged North Korea to bring a serious attitude to potential inter-Korean denuclearization talks, warning such dialogue should not be seen as a mere prelude to resumption of multilateral negotiations.

“North Korea must come to inter-Korean dialogue with a sincere and responsible attitude,” Hyun said in a speech to the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea, adding the talks “should not be a brief stopover en route to the six-party talks.”

Hyun’s remarks came amid a spate of diplomacy aimed at launching nuclear dialogue between the Koreas ahead of a possible resumption of the six-party talks on Pyongyang’s denuclearization.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and three other elder statesmen are slated to arrive in Pyongyang today on a private mission focused on breaking through the diplomatic stalemate.

Meanwhile, Beijing’s nuclear envoy Wu Dawei is expected to arrive in Seoul for talks with his counterpart Wi Sung-lac.

The diplomacy comes shortly after Seoul and Washington signaled they would accept Beijing’s proposal that inter-Korean talks precede a resumption of the six-party talks.

Tension has soared on the peninsula over the North’s refusal to account for its deadly shelling of Yeonpyeong Island last November and its sinking of the warship Cheonan eight months earlier.

Hyun stressed the North must show responsibility for the two deadly provocations last year for the Koreas to make any headway.

“For us to move forward, North Korea must show a responsible attitude in last year’s two brutal provocations,” he said. “The ball is in North Korea’s court.”

Pyongyang has yet to issue a formal statement regarding the proposed inter-Korean nuclear talks, which, if held, would be the first of their kind.

Officials here have said the North has a “range of choices” to respond to the proposal, indicating such a move could be made through Carter’s delegation.

Hyun admitted the road to a denuclearized peninsula would be exceedingly difficult.

He said Pyongyang’s claim that the international airstrikes in Libya against Muammar Gaddafi's forces were a result of Tripoli’s denuclearization, show it is determined to keep its nuclear program.

Regarding the food situation in the North, Hyun said the shortages there were not significantly worse than in previous years and that the regime appeared to have a “political motivation” behind its recent appeals for external aid.

The six-party talks, which also includes the United States, Japan, Russia, and host China, have been on hold since 2009, when Pyongyang walked away in response to international sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests.

Pyongyang raised the stakes in November when it disclosed a sprawling uranium enrichment program that experts fear could be upgraded to produce nuclear weapons.

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North Korea Visit to Focus on Food Crisis: Carter
Robert Saiget
(for personal use only)

A group of former statesmen led by ex-US president Jimmy Carter said Monday they will focus on food shortages, human rights and denuclearisation when they visit North Korea this week.

A delegation of "The Elders" group of retired state leaders will visit Pyongyang on Tuesday in a bid to ease tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapon programmes, they told a news conference in Beijing.

The four-member group, led by Carter, includes former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, ex-Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland and former Irish president Mary Robinson.

Besides discussing ways in which to push forward multi-nation talks on the denuclearisation of North Korea, Carter said he would be looking at how to ease sanctions on Pyongyang that have exacerbated a serious food crisis.

"It is a horrible situation there and we hope to induce other countries to help alleviate (the food crisis), including South Korea, which has cut off all supplies of food materials to North Koreans," Carter told journalists.

"When there are sanctions against an entire people, the people suffer the most and the leaders suffer the least."

Robinson said one-third of North Korea's children had suffered stunted growth due to a lack of food, while up to 3.5 million people were vulnerable to the widening crisis that saw average food rations cut in half this year to 700 calories a day per person.

"It is very, very important to ensure that the women, children and the elderly do not suffer because of a political situation," Robinson said. "We will very much be emphasising this.

"We really feel that the humanitarian and human rights issues are also very important."

United Nations food agencies that recently visited the North say more than six million people -- a quarter of the population -- urgently need food aid.

Carter said the delegation hopes to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, but so far such a meeting has not been announced. The trip was arranged at the invitation of top North Korean leaders, he said.

The delegation was to meet with China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and other Chinese experts on North Korea later Monday. The group, which will issue a report on their findings, will fly to Seoul Thursday.

Six-party disarmament talks between the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia have been at a standstill since Pyongyang walked out in April 2008 and staged its second nuclear test a month later.

Cross-border tensions were heightened when North Korea bombarded a border island in November, killing four South Koreans, including two civilians, and sparking fears of war.

The first attack on civilians since the 1950-53 Korean War came weeks after Pyongyang disclosed an apparently operational uranium enrichment plant to visiting US experts.

The North claimed it was a peaceful energy project but experts said it could be reconfigured to produce weapons-grade uranium.

Carter has mediated in North Korea before. In 1994 he visited Pyongyang after the United States came close to war with North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme.

Last August the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner visited Pyongyang to secure the release of jailed US citizen Aijalon Mahli Gomes.

Some analysts believe Carter will also seek to secure the freedom of a Korean-American detained by the North since last November who is facing trial for unspecified crimes against the nation.

A source has said the man was involved in missionary work.

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North Korea Repeats Harsh Rhetoric Amid Diplomatic Moves to Revive Nuclear Talks
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

North Korea's defense chief reiterated a warning Sunday that tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula may lead to a war, the latest harsh rhetoric amid a flurry of diplomatic efforts to ease tensions and revive stalled talks on the North's nuclear programs.

Tensions still linger over the peninsula over the sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on the North and the North's shelling of a South Korean border island.

South Korea has repeatedly called for the North to take responsible steps over its deadly attacks last year that killed a total of 50 South Koreans, but the North has continued to deny its responsibility over the sinking of the South Korean warship.

On Sunday, North Korea's Defense Chief Kim Yong-chun accused Seoul and Washington of having staged "madcap maneuvers for mounting a surprisingly preemptive strike" on the North with various nuclear attack means.

"If the U.S. imperialists and the South Korean group of traitors finally ignite a war against the (North), its revolutionary armed forces will ... wipe out the aggressors at one blow," he said at a national meeting in Pyongyang on the eve of the 79th founding anniversary of the Korean People's Army.

He also said a tense situation is being forged in which a war may break out anytime. The peninsula is still technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

The warning is not new, but it came amid a diplomatic push by South Korea, the United States and other regional powers to jump-start the international talks on ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs.

Top Chinese nuclear envoy Wu Dawei is scheduled to visit Seoul this week for talks with his South Korean counterpart, Seoul's Foreign Ministry said, without giving further details.

The North has expressed its willingness to rejoin the nuclear talks that it quit in 2009, but Seoul and Washington have demanded that Pyongyang first demonstrate its denuclearization commitment by action.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter plans to visit Pyongyang this week for talks expected to focus on North Korea's denuclearization, a peace treaty and humanitarian food aid to the impoverished communist nation.

It was not immediately known whether Carter will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

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C.  Japan

Government Decides Specifics of Nuke Crisis Evacuees' Brief Hometown Visits
The Mainichi Daily News
(for personal use only)

The government has decided on the specifics of brief visits by evacuees to their homes within a 20-kilometer radius of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, including allowing them to stay within the zone for up to five hours, officials said Monday.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan told a parliamentary session that he expects the hometown visits by evacuees to begin after the upcoming Golden Week holidays through early May and wrap up after some time given that more than 26,000 households will be involved.

The government has explained the details to municipalities located within the 20-km area, which was designated last week as a legally binding no-entry zone.

Under the rules for the temporary visits, a five-hour limit will be imposed to keep radiation exposure to 1 millisievert or less. Only one person per household will be allowed to return, excluding people under 15 years old and the elderly.

The government has also decided not to allow evacuees to bring out food and farm animals, while it is still considering whether to approve the retrieval of cars and pets, officials said.

Local residents, especially those who evacuated immediately after the nuclear crisis erupted in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan's northeast, have been clamoring to temporarily return to their homes to collect their belongings.

After the start of the nuclear crisis, the government ordered residents inside the 20-km area to evacuate, while those within 20-30 km were ordered to remain indoors or evacuate voluntarily.

The government announced last Thursday that household representatives would be allowed to return to their homes for up to two hours on condition that they travel into the 20-km zone on buses and in groups accompanied by local authority officials. They will also have to wear protective clothing and carry dosimeters and undergo radiation screening afterward.

But residents of areas within 3 km of the plant will not be allowed to make brief visits.

As Japan continues to battle its worst nuclear emergency, Kan defended his much-criticized handling of the crisis and continued to face growing pressure to review the country's energy policy, including its pursuit of nuclear power.

"I can say with confidence that there was absolutely no error in our initial response," the premier said, noting that he acknowledges the state's "big responsibility" in the nuclear accident as the government has been pursuing nuclear energy.

"Naturally, we will be discussing whether or not to maintain the current framework," Kan told the Diet, indicating the government might consider separating the nuclear safety agency from the industry ministry as part of efforts to ensure safety at atomic power plants in Japan.

Currently, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, responsible for nuclear safety issues, is under the wing of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry.

But critics, including local governments that host nuclear power plants, say this setup compromises the agency's role in ensuring nuclear safety because the ministry actively promotes the use of atomic power.

Kan also noted the need to "thoroughly review from scratch" the government's plan to build more than 14 nuclear reactors by 2030, but said he has no plans to immediately halt existing nuclear facilities.

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Health Risks Numerous Near Nuclear Plant
(for personal use only)

Radiation leaks remain a health threat for areas around Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, officials said.

The crisis at the plant resulted from an earthquake and tsunami March 11.

Some experts believe the Fukushima crisis is more serious than that resulting from an explosion at Ukraine's Chernobyl power plant 25 years ago, the Mainichi Daily News reported Monday.

"It's graver than Chernobyl in that no one can predict how the situation will develop," said Atsushi Kasai, a former senior researcher with the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute.

In addition to danger from leaking radioactivity, Japanese citizens are also at risk of psychological illnesses, officials said.

"Research institutes from various countries conducted detailed surveys on the health of people affected by the Chernobyl crisis," said Yoshihisa Matsumoto, Tokyo Institute of Technology associate professor of radiobiology. "The Japanese government should arrange for checks on the mental and physical health of local residents and nuclear plant workers."

Tokyo-Sendai bullet train service resumed Monday for the first time since the earthquake.

Sendai is the capital of Miyagi Prefecture, one of the areas hit hardest in the disaster.

Reconnection of the train service was expected to speed up reconstruction activities in the disaster region and facilitate faster access for officials to the Japanese capital, Kyodo News reported.

The crisis at the Fukushima plant has been rated a maximum Level 7 on a scale established by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 1992.

The Yomiuri Shimbun said Monday the amount of radiation released from the damaged plant is greater than first reported.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it could be as long as four months before it is able to control radiation leakage from the crippled reactors.

The latest confirmed death toll from the earthquake-tsunami rose to 14,300 as of 4 p.m. Sunday, the National Police Agency reported. The agency said 11,999 people remained missing.

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Tepco Pumps Tainted Water From Reactor Trenches, Adds Backup Power Cables
Yuji Okada and Michio Nakayama
(for personal use only)

Tokyo Electric Power Co. pumped highly radioactive water from trenches at its crippled nuclear plant, and said it expects to complete installing additional cables to supply backup power to the station’s six reactors.

The company known as Tepco moved 1.41 million liters (372,000 gallons) of the water from the reactor No. 2 building, about 14 percent of the total, to a storage unit by 7 a.m. local time today, spokesman Takashi Kurita said at a media briefing in Tokyo. About 10 million liters is expected to be transferred over 26 days, the company said on April 19.

Tepco is battling radiation leaks from its Fukushima Dai- Ichi plant after a magnitude-9 earthquake on March 11 unleashed a tsunami that flooded the station, triggering the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. The water that was poured to cool the reactors must be removed to repair the pumps and backup generators knocked out by the tsunami.

“While not stable yet, things are generally moving in the right direction,” Penn Bowers, a Tokyo-based analyst for CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, said by telephone today. “I’m not sure we’re going to see any major corner being turned at this point. There’s going to be a slow grind, probably for months.”

Tepco plans to connect power cables linking the plant’s six reactors today, Teruaki Kobayashi, the company’s head of nuclear maintenance, said at today’s briefing. The reactors are currently connected in pairs to external power sources.

The company’s shares rose 8.4 percent to 438 yen in Tokyo, their first gain in eight days. The stock has declined almost 80 percent since the quake and tsunami, which left about 26,000 people dead or missing.

Resignation Undecided

Tepco President Masataka Shimizu told Japanese lawmakers he hasn’t decided when to resign to take responsibility for the crisis. Shimizu was asked by lawmaker Teruhiko Mashiko when he will submit his resignation while appearing today before a budget committee of the Japanese parliament.

Board members will have their pay cut by 50 percent after the accident, the Nikkei newspaper reported today, without saying where it got the information.

The company has been criticized by the government for responding too slowly to the crisis that unfolded at the Fukushima plant after the tsunami washed ashore.

Tepco poured millions of liters of water to cool the reactors and spent fuel after the accident, causing flooding in the basements and trenches near the buildings that house them. Some highly contaminated water leaked into the sea and the utility has dumped less-toxic fluids into the ocean.

Contaminated Water

“We will continue pouring water until stable cooling conditions for the reactors have been achieved,” Shimizu told lawmakers in parliament today.

About 50 million liters of other contaminated water is estimated to be lying around reactors No. 1, 2 and 3, the company said on April 5.

About 520,000 liters of water with a level of radioactivity that was 20,000 times the legal limit leaked into the ocean between April 1 and 6, Junichi Matsumoto, a Tepco general manager, said last week.

The central government last week started enforcing a no- entry zone within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the Fukushima plant as a public health measure after residents returned to the area to check their homes.

The station, where three of the reactors are damaged, is located about 220 kilometers north of Tokyo.

An earlier directive asking about 80,000 residents living within the 20-kilometer radius to evacuate wasn’t legally binding. One person per household will be allowed to return to their homes for two-hour periods to retrieve possessions.

Japan’s government on April 12 raised the severity rating of the Fukushima crisis to the highest on an international scale, the same level as the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago. Tepco officials have said the station, which has withstood hundreds of aftershocks, may release more radiation than Chernobyl before the crisis is contained.

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Workers Locked in Battle at Fukushima, Exposure to Radiation Rising
The Mainichi Daily News
(for personal use only)

Workers at a nuclear power plant damaged by last month's earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan's northeast continued battling to deal with radioactive water Saturday as their exposure to radiation is constantly increasing.

One more worker is found to have been exposed to radiation of more than 100 millisieverts, bringing to 30 the total number of people of that dosage level while dealing with the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant since the March 11 disasters, sources familiar with the situation said.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Saturday that a piece of concrete rubble with a high radiation emission of 900 millisieverts per hour was found near the plant's No. 3 reactor and a worker removed it using heavy equipment.

The worker who operated the equipment was exposed to 3.17 millisieverts of radiation, but officials of the utility known as TEPCO said the dosage does not pose a major problem.

The concrete piece, about 30 centimeters in both length and width with a thickness of about 5 cm, was found Wednesday and removed the following day and is currently being kept inside a container with other pieces of rubble, the officials said.

While workers are removing rubble from the damaged plant using remote-controlled heavy machinery, the one emitting high radiation was removed directly using the equipment so as not to damage an important pipe located nearby, they said.

TEPCO says workers and engineers exposed to radiation close to 200 millisieverts are switched to jobs that risk receiving lower levels of contamination.

Such a policy has been applied to just one worker so far, after his reading rose to 198 millisieverts, according to the utility.

To cope with the Fukushima crisis, the government has raised the legal limit on the amount of radiation to which each worker could be exposed in an emergency situation to 250 millisieverts from 100 millisieverts.

On Saturday, highly toxic radioactive water from the No. 2 reactor was transferred from the basement of a building to a nearby waste-disposing facility for a fifth consecutive day, while attempts were made to prevent it from leaking into the sea.

An estimated 25,000 tons of contaminated water need to be removed, of which 10,000 tons are planned to be sent to the facility by mid-May. Only less than 10 percent has been transferred so far in a process considered crucial for the plant to restore the cooling functions for its reactors.

At the No. 4 reactor building, the temperature of the spent nuclear fuel pool dropped from 83 C to 66 C after a four-hour process of injecting 140 tons of fresh water using a concrete pump truck, increasing the water level in the pool by 1 meter, TEPCO officials said.

Separately, the science ministry said the cumulative dosage of radiation has exceeded the annual limit set by the government for evacuation at one location in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, about 30 km northwest of the nuclear complex.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said the radiation amount, measured over one month between March 23 and Friday, surpassed the 20-millisievert limit at the place although the pace of accumulation has gradually slowed.

The ministry's data showed the radiation level there reached 10 millisieverts after the first 12 days since the start of measurement, but it took 19 days for an additional 10 millisieverts of radiation to be detected.

On Friday, Namie was named to the list of municipalities located outside a 20-km radius of the complex, from where a total of about 10,500 residents must leave by around late May. The government had declared the 20-km area around the plant a no-go zone the previous day.

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D.  Nuclear Safety

South Korean Minister Stresses Nuclear Safety
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

South Korea needs to strengthen its nuclear reactor safety protocol to ensure there are no problems with its atomic power production, the commerce minister said Monday.

The remarks come amid growing concern over the safety of atomic energy after the disastrous earthquake in Japan damaged reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, prompting radiation leaks.

"There is a need to pay close attention to emergency training programs and make certain that backup safety systems are in place and can cope with unexpected developments," Knowledge Economy Minister Choi Joong-kyung said during a visit to the Yeonggwang nuclear power station on the country's west coast.

"As can be seen in Japan's Fukushima nuclear station crisis, minor problems can lead to serious consequences," he told officials from the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP). He added even the slightest mistake cannot be tolerated since it could affect public confidence in nuclear power.

The Fukushima plant was hit by a record magnitude-9.0 quake and massive tsunami that cut off power to its reactors, causing them to overheat and explode. The so-called hydrogen explosions caused radioactive material to be released into the environment.

Choi, in addition, stressed that because of the need to stem global warming and meet growing energy consumption, South Korea has no choice but to expand its nuclear power capabilities.

"Nuclear power is the only viable means to ensure South Korea maintains its economic competitiveness," he said.

Seoul started a detailed examination of its oldest reactor on Friday after an electrical glitch caused the 587-megawatt unit to go offline on April 12.

Initially, the 33-year-old reactor located in the northeastern part of Busan, South Korea's largest port, should have been turned back on in a few days, but policymakers decided to check all systems thoroughly to alleviate growing public concerns. Results of the review along with safety checks on all other reactors in the country should be released next month.

The policymaker, meanwhile, said that South Korea has made considerable strides in the nuclear sector in the past decades and has recently emerged as an exporter of nuclear power.

At present, the country operates 21 commercial reactors with electricity generating capacity of 18.720 megawatts, or roughly 30 percent of the country's electricity needs as of late March.

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AFP: Bulgarian Nuclear Plant at Kozloduy Faced EU Stress Test
FOCUS News Agency
(for personal use only)

Bulgaria's sole nuclear plant at Kozloduy, spotlighted in the 1990s over safety issues, is looking forward to European stress tests, following Japan's nuclear disaster, AFP comments.

"Our plant is the most controlled one in Europe: 25 missions over the last 12 years, including from the (UN nuclear watchdog) IAEA and WANO (World Associaton of Nuclear Operators)," Kozloduy's executive director Kostadin Dimitrov told AFP on a recent visit.

A Soviet-built model, Kozloduy came to the attention of the West in the 1990s, after the fall of communism opened the way to western experts, who suddenly came face to face with an unknown and neglected technology.

Like Chernobyl, Kozloduy's reactors lacked containment vessels -- seen as a key safety measure -- although the technology used at the two plants otherwise differed.

As a prerequisite to starting EU accession talks, Sofia was forced to close its two oldest 440-megawatt reactors in 2002.

Two more recent ones then followed just prior to Bulgaria joining the European Union in January 2007, despite undergoing modernisation work to compensate for their lack of a containment structure.

Now only two 1,000-megawatt units remain in operation at the 37-year-old plant, but they are the most modern, built in 1987 and 1991, and brought up to date again a decade later.

"From 2000 to 2008, units 5 and 6 underwent a major modernisation, carried out by an international team," that included France's Areva -- which oversees the plant's security systems -- US firm Westinghouse, Russia's Atomstroyexport and Germany's Siemens, noted Dimitrov.

The government is also counting on these international partners to extend the units' life past their 2017 and 2019 operation end dates.

"The attack in Europe from environmentalists and whole governments against old plants, including Kozloduy, will be fierce," Prime Minister Boyko Borisov warned last week. "And without its reactors, Bulgaria would go bankrupt."

But Kozloduy is not waiting on Brussels to decide on criteria for the nuclear stress tests and has already launched an intensive examination of all its systems, including its reaction in the event of a terrorist attack, a fire or floods, Dimitrov said: "We will work on what we deem necessary (for now) and then on the new (European) requirements when they have been decided," he said.

Once the number one electricity exporter in the Balkans, Bulgaria lost this prime position with the closure of four of its reactors, which is one of the reasons Sofia has been seeking to build a second nuclear plant at Belene, on the Danube -- a project that has nevertheless been stalled for years.

Opinion polls show Bulgarians generally favour nuclear power, seen as the cheapest source of energy: according to a recent Gallup poll, 48 percent backed the Belene project, while only 15 percent opposed it.

In Kozloduy, a town of 23,000 located in the EU's poorest region according to European data, many are confident the plant -- a key source of income and jobs -- will stand up to any tests.

"Foreign pressure has made the plant even safer," said Daniela Mitrenova, whose husband works there.

"A tsunami like the one in Japan will not happen on the Danube," student Ivelina Dimitrova added with a smile.

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E.  Nuclear Energy

Austrian Chancellor Calls for Nuclear-Free Future
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Austria's chancellor called for a nuclear-free Europe on Monday, pledging to do his part to make this happen.

Austria is an ardent opponent of nuclear power and has no operating plants of its own. It has seen its critical stance reinforced by the Japanese nuclear crisis that has raised questions about the safety of atomic energy.

"We're strong enough if we take a stand together," Chancellor Werner Faymann told a cheering crowd in downtown Vienna, the Austrian capital. "The nuclear power lobby has more money than we do, it has more financial resources than we do, but we want to create a humane future without nuclear energy in Europe!"

"I promise I will do my part," he said.

Faymann was among several speakers at an event marking the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl, the world's worst nuclear accident.

European Union nations agreed last month to submit their plants to so-called stress tests and promised to heed the lessons from the tsunami-related accident at Japan's crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi complex.

In a statement, Berlakovich said draft criteria for the tests don't go far enough and that they "must incorporate human influences such as plane crashes or terror attacks."

It should be clear that all countries and all nuclear power plants must participate in the testing process, he added.

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Nuclear Phase-Out to Cost Germany $48 Billion, Welt Reports
(for personal use only)

Germany’s BDI industry lobby said the overall costs of a fast nuclear power phase-out will cost users and the economy 32.7 billion euros ($47.6 billion), Welt am Sonntag reported, citing a study.

German power customers will be directly charged about 51.1 billion euros more overall between 2012 and 2020, the German newspaper said, citing the study.

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Nuclear Power Must Be Expanded: Plan Panel
The Hindu
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Asserting that nuclear power will play a major role in meeting the energy needs of the country during the 12th Five-Year Plan, the Planning Commission on Thursday said the country needed an additional 1,00,000 MW of power during the 12th Plan period (2012-17) and therefore capacity expansion should be undertaken keeping the safety measures intact.

Making a presentation to the Prime Minister at the full-fledged meeting of the Commission, Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said: “There is a need to create a minimum of 1,00,000 MW new power capacity during the 12th Plan period. Nuclear power must be expanded with further safety measures.”

The Commission also said the pricing of diesel and petrol should be regularly revisited and LPG and kerosene subsidy should be targeted only towards BPL (below poverty line) category.

“Coal production will be a very major constraint, partly due to weakness of Coal India Limited and partly environment and forest clearances.

“We must plan for coal imports of at least 250 million tonnes by 2017-18 which will require corresponding expansion of rail and port capacities,'' the Plan panel said. It said there was a need to quickly expand wind power with the use of off-shore wind potential and technological innovations. It said the ‘Solar Mission' should gradually lead to reduction in power cost per unit though it would still be above traditional fuels, it added.

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Belarus to Build Nuclear Power Plant Whatever the Cost
Itar-Tass News Agency
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Belarus needs vitally a nuclear power plant and it will be built in the republic, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said in an annual state-of-the-nation address to Belarusian people and the country’s parliament on Thursday.

“We will build a nuclear power plant whatever the cost. Moreover, Russia gives credits, gives technologies and is ready to build a turnkey plant and at acceptable prices. Russia produced all the documentation and set the price. Russia did it in the natural way,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Lukashenko noted that the price was a major factor in selecting a nuclear power plant project. A Belarusian nuclear power plant “is much cheaper than similar nuclear power plants in other countries,” he said. In this respect, the president emphasized that “the project, which we selected for a Belarusian nuclear power plant, meets the highest security requirements and not only the present-day requirements.”

The construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus will, in the first place, give a cheaper electric power and, “in the second place - make it possible to create a secured nuclear fuel stock for a long period of time, during which we will not be exposed to any price fluctuations,” he pointed out. Other positive factors are that Belarus may reduce the gas import supplies by a fourth and to bring down the annual greenhouse gas emission by about ten million tons. Finally, the nuclear power plant “is the state-of-the-art technologies” and an upsurge of science.

The Belarusian leader also noted that all insinuations over the construction of a nuclear power plant in the republic are 95 percent the actions of bribed people. “People bribed by our rivals,” Lukashenko underlined.

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F.  Links of Interest

Tepco to Use Temporary Tanks to Store Radioactive Water
Tsuyoshi Inajima
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Chernobyl Nuke Cleanup to be Costly for Decades
Associated Press
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