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Nuclear News - 4/28/2011
PGS Nuclear News, April 28, 2011
Compiled By: Matthew Kapuscinski

A.  Iran
    1. Iran Waiting for Another Nuclear Jump, Fars News Agency (4/27/2011)
    2. U.S. Prods Turkey to Enforce Iran Sanctions, Reuters (4/27/2011)
    3. BMI Warns of Iran-Zimbabwean Nuclear Pact, The Zimbabwean (4/26/2011)
    1. China Hopes for Early, Fruitful Inter-Korean Talks, Xinhua News Agency (4/27/2011)
    2. Former US President Meets North Korea Parliament Chief, AFP (4/27/2011)
    3. Appointment in U.S. Tied to Six-Party Venue, JoongAng Daily (4/27/2011)
    4. Resumption of North Korea Peace Talks Imminent: Analysts, The Korea Herald (4/27/2011)
    5. South Korea Downplays Carter's Trip, Prods North Korea for Direct Talks, Yonhap News Agency (4/26/2011)
C.  Japan
    1. Envoy to U.N. Vows 'Utmost' Effort to Share Nuke Crisis Developments, The Japan Times (4/28/2011)
    2. Radiation Readings in Fukushima Reactor Rise to Highest Since Crisis Began, Tsuyoshi Inajima and Michio Nakayama, Bloomberg (4/27/2011)
    3. High Levels of Radiation in Areas Near Nuclear Plant Foreseen for a Year, The Mainichi Daily News (4/27/2011)
D.  Nuclear Safety
    1. India to Set Up Independent Nuclear Watchdog, Nirmala George, Business Week (4/27/2011)
    2. Russia to Propose Nuclear Plan at G8: Medvedev, AFP (4/26/2011)
    3. Government Pledges Jaitapur Plant Safety Amid Japan Crisis, Reuters (4/26/2011)
E.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Thailand Delays First Nuclear Power Plant to 2023, Reuters (4/27/2011)
    2. Italy Plans to Reassess Nuclear Power in Few Years, Catherine Hornby, Reuters (4/26/2011)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. Effects of Chernobyl Tragedy Should be Compensated: Liechtenstein, Xinhua News Agency (4/27/2011)
    2. Japan Says Fukushima 'Different from Chernobyl', Shingo Ito, AFP (4/26/2011)
    3. A Visit to Chernobyl, Ban Ki-Moon, The New York Times (4/25/2011)

A.  Iran

Iran Waiting for Another Nuclear Jump
Fars News Agency
(for personal use only)

An Iranian top security official announced on Wednesday that the Tehran government would soon announce some "good news" on the country's new achievements in the field of civilian nuclear technology.

"During the next few days, some good news on nuclear achievements will be announced to the people," Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Undersecretary for Media Affairs Abolfazl Zohrehvand said in a conference in Iran's Northeastern city of Bojnord, the capital city of the North Khorassan province, on Wednesday.

As regards Iran's nuclear activities, the official underlined the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, and noted, "Today, the world has accepted Iran as a nuclear state, and the Islamic Republic of Iran is also committed to the peaceful use of the nuclear technology."

Zohrehvand said the Iranian government, whose approach is based on nuclear transparency, is continuing nuclear activities with maximum power .

Earlier this month, Iran announced that it would soon supply the Tehran Research Reactor with the nuclear fuel enriched inside Iran.

"Our scientists took action to supply fuel for the Tehran research reactor and this fuel which is the fruit of the efforts made by our country's scientists will be loaded into the Tehran Research Reactor this year," Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Undersecretary Ali Baqeri said in early April.

Iran's move to use nuclear fuel in its research reactor came after the West failed to fulfill its pledge to supply nuclear fuel for the reactor.

After Iran announced to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2009 that it would soon run out of nuclear fuel for its research reactor in Tehran, the Agency proposed a deal according to which Iran would send 3.5-percent-enriched uranium and receive 20-percent-enriched uranium from potential suppliers in return, all through the UN nuclear watchdog agency.

The proposal was first introduced on October 1, 2009 when Iranian representatives and diplomats from the Group 5+1 held high-level talks in Geneva.

But France and the United States, as potentials suppliers, stalled the talks soon after the start. They offered a deal which would keep Tehran waiting for months before it could obtain the fuel, a luxury of time that Iran could not afford as it is about to run out of 20-percent-enriched uranium.

The Iranian parliament rejected the deal after technical studies showed that it would only take two to three months for any country to further enrich the nuclear stockpile and turn it into nuclear metal rods for the Tehran Research Reactor, while suppliers had announced that they would not return fuel to Iran any less than seven months.

Iran then put forward its own proposal that envisaged a two-staged exchange. According to Tehran's offer, the IAEA would safeguard nearly one third of Iran's uranium stockpile inside the Iranian territory for the time that it took to find a supplier. The western countries opposed Tehran's proposal.

Subsequently, Iranian, Brazilian and Turkish officials on May 17, 2010 signed an agreement named the 'Tehran Declaration' which presented a solution to the longstanding standoff between Iran and potential suppliers of nuclear fuel. According to the agreement, Iran would send some 1200 kg of its 3.5% enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for a total 120 kg of 20% enriched fuel.

But again the western countries showed a negative and surprising reaction to the Tehran Declaration and sponsored a sanctions resolution against Iran at the UN Security Council instead of taking the opportunity presented by the agreement.

Russia, France, and the US, in three separate letters, instead of giving a definite response to the Tehran Declaration, raised some questions about the deal, and the US took a draft sanctions resolution against Iran to the UN Security Council, which was later approved by the Council.

Iran in a letter responded to the questions raised by the Vienna Group on the Tehran Declaration and voiced its preparedness to hold talks.

In a later move, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano proposed a plan to resume talks between the two sides, and former Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced Tehran's agreement with Amano's proposal.

"Iran is ready to take part in the meeting brokered by Amano," Mottaki said.

He referred to Iran's letter to Amano in which the country had declared its readiness for talks with the Vienna Group and said, "Mr. Amano has forwarded the letter to other members of the group and it seems that he is arranging for holding the meeting."

Mottaki said that the country wants to determine and approve details of fuel swap through talks with Vienna Group.

Yet, despite all the efforts Iran has made so far to swap or supply fuel from potential suppliers, West has refrained to do so.

After Iran saw western suppliers rock the boat and shrug off their responsibility - as enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) statute - it started domestic plans to enrich uranium to the purity level of 20 percent.

In April 2010, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered the AEOI head to start domestic plans to supply fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor which produces radioisotopes for medicinal use.

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U.S. Prods Turkey to Enforce Iran Sanctions
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The United States is concerned by Turkey's growing trade ties with Iran and has warned Turkish banks against dealing with blacklisted Iranian counterparts, a senior U.S. Treasury official said Wednesday.

David Cohen, acting Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said he came to Turkey to "urge full and robust implementation of U.N. Security Council resolution 1929 against Iran."

Turkey says it is complying with U.N. sanctions imposed last year, aimed at persuading Iran to become more open about its nuclear program to allay suspicions in both the West and Middle East that it is building weapons.

Though a member of NATO, Turkey opposed the imposition of this fourth round of U.N. sanctions on fellow Muslim Iran.

There are concerns in the West that Turkey could prove a weak link in efforts to throttle the Islamic Republic's access to the global financial system.

Cohen also urged Turkey to observe the United States own set of sanctions, warning that banks involved in significant transactions with proscribed Iranian counterparts risked being frozen out of the U.S. financial system.

Addressing a news conference after holding two days of talks with government officials and bankers, Cohen said Turkish banks had to be on guard against Iran exploiting and abusing financial relationships in order to support its nuclear proliferation efforts.

He said Turkey's support for sanctions was particularly important, given its position as a neighbor of Iran and a leading country in the region.

Another U.S. official came with a similar message last year.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government has built friendly relations with Iran and bilateral trade has expanded markedly since the AK Party came to power in 2002. Last year trade climbed to $10.7 billion compared to around $1 billion in 2000.

Cohen specifically warned against dealings with branches of Iran's Bank Mellat in Turkey.

"One of the issues that we discussed in my meetings was the importance of isolating Bank Mellat entirely including its branches here in Turkey," Cohen said.

The United Nations has only blacklisted two Iranian banks while issuing warnings over two others, but the United States and European Union, which has also implemented sanctions on Iran, have listed more.

The U.S. Treasury Department has blacklisted 17 Iranian banks, making it illegal for any bank that does business in the United States to have contact with those institutions.

Cohen said he had no knowledge of reports that India was considering routing payments for oil purchased from Iran via Turkey to avoid its own financial institutions being tainted.

More broadly, Cohen said he had raised U.S. concerns in Ankara that Turkey's burgeoning trade ties with Iran would provide more cover for Iran to mask transactions.

"As trade relationships expand, the risk of abuse by Iran expands at the same time," he said.

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BMI Warns of Iran-Zimbabwean Nuclear Pact
The Zimbabwean
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A leading international economic think-tank this week warned that plans by Zimbabwe to sell nuclear-related material to Iran in defiance of ongoing United Nations sanctions would scare away investors that were trickling back to the mining sector.

Recently, in what could prove a controversial development, there were several media reports that the Asian country was looking to buy uranium from Zimbabwe in defiance of ongoing UN sanctions. Zimbabwean media quoted Foreign Affairs Minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, as saying his country planned to cooperate with Iran on uranium mining as Zimbabwe had rich uranium reserves but was faced with a shortage of funds and did not possess the technical knowledge and equipment needed for extracting the ores.

The UK-based Business Monitor International (BMI), in a report titled Zimbabwe Mining Report Q2 2011, this week warned against such plans. “In BMI´s opinion, such a provocative move by Harare, in defiance of international pressure on Iran to cease its nuclear programme for fear it is looking to build nuclear weapons, could well prove counterproductive, especially with international investors only just starting to return to the Zimbabwean mining sector following many years of internal political and economic strife.”

Zimbabwe has estimated uranium reserves of some 455 000 tonnes, mainly located north of Harare. It would reportedly take up to three years of development before the country could produce uranium, with the reserves then set to be exhausted within five years.

Iran is under sanctions from UN in response to the country’s uranium-enrichment activities, which Tehran says are for peaceful purposes but which other countries contend are driven by military ambitions. The aged Zimbabwean leader added to the growing uncertainty surrounding Zimbabwean mining when he attacked local platinum miner Zimbabwe Platinum (Zimplats) for ´taking all the money to South Africa´, where parent company Impala Platinum is based.

“At the end of 2010, there had been hopes that the government was putting the issue of indigenous empowerment to one side to allow the local economy time to recover. At that time, the government stated that its controversial Indigenization and Empowerment Act which originally called for a 51 percent stake in all mining companies (with assets over US$500 000) to be divested to indigenous Zimbabwean groups within a five-year period had been suspended until the local economy recovers,” said BMI.

“Given Mugabe’s recent attacks on Zimplats and its South African parent company, then there may once again be cause for concern over the issue of ownership over the coming months.”

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Appointment in U.S. Tied to Six-Party Venue
JoongAng Daily
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The appointment of Sydney Seiler as the Asia policy director of the U.S. National Security Council is part of Washington’s efforts to prepare for resumption of the six-party talks, diplomatic sources told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

Seiler, formerly deputy chief on North Korea at Washington’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence, was appointed to the NSC position on April 20.

Seiler worked for 30 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, mostly dealing with North Korean issues. In 2007, he moved to the DNI to deal with North Korea.

It is seen as rare for a former intelligence official to be appointed as an NSC director. The position is usually given to career diplomats or scholars.

A high-profile Washington source said Seiler was not among the four official negotiators of the U.S. in the six-party talks led by Christopher Hill, but he had personally watched the whole six-party talks process sitting in a seat behind the U.S. representatives.

The source said Seiler could participate in the six-party talks as a CIA representative, and he gave his opinions when Washington crafted policies regarding North Korea.

Another diplomatic source said that Seiler knows more than many other people about North Korea’s behavior at the six-party talks.

The source said if the six-party talks are resumed under President Barack Obama, Seiler’s status as a North Korea expert would enjoy more prominence in Washington.

It is quite possible that he would attend the resumed six-party talks as deputy U.S. representative, the source said.

The six-party talks, concerning the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia, were launched in 2003 with the view of encouraging the North to drop its nuclear ambitions in return for financial and security compensation.

The talks were disrupted with the North’s withdrawal in April 2009.

Some of the concerned parties have intensified their efforts to restart the talks to address heightened concerns over the North’s nuclear development, including its recently unveiled uranium enrichment program, which the North agreed to discuss within the six-party talks.

But the South wants the North to express verifiable sincerity before resumption of the six-party talks through such talks as inter-Korean nuclear talks.

The North is blamed for two major provocations against the South last year, which killed 50 South Koreans including two civilians.

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China Hopes for Early, Fruitful Inter-Korean Talks
Xinhua News Agency
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China hopes South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) will launch talks at an early date and make positive outcome, an high-ranking Chinese diplomat said here Wednesday.

China's special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs Wu Dawei made the remark during a meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan.

Wu, who arrived in Seoul on Tuesday, exchanged views with Kim on general situation on the Korean Peninsula and resumption of the long-stalled six-party talks.

On Tuesday, Wu met with South Korea's top nuclear envoy Wi Sung- lac.

The Chinese diplomats expressed hope that inter-Korean talks will be launched as soon as possible and bring about positive results.

The two sides agreed to support for contacts between the United States and the DPRK at appropriate time, and also agreed to make efforts with other relevant parties to create conditions for early resumption of the six-party talks.

The six-party talks on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula began in 2003involving China, the DPRK, the United States, South Korea, Russia and Japan. Six rounds of talks were held before breakdown in December 2008.

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Former US President Meets North Korea Parliament Chief
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Former US president Jimmy Carter met North Korea's de facto head of state in Pyongyang on Wednesday during his visit aimed at easing regional tensions and pushing nuclear disarmament.

Carter and three other retired world leaders met parliament chief Kim Yong-Nam at his office in the legislature, the North's official news agency KCNA said in a brief report.

Carter delivered gifts for national leader Kim Jong-Il, it said, but there was no mention of whether the visitors would get their hoped-for meeting with Kim and his son and heir apparent Jong-Un.

The North has declared its late founding leader Kim Il-Sung the country's eternal president but Kim Yong-Nam is de facto head of state and greets visiting dignitaries.

On Tuesday, Carter and his team held talks with Foreign Minister Pak Ui-Chun, who hosted a reception for them.

The ex-leaders, part of a group known as The Elders which promotes peace and development, arrived in the North's capital Tuesday from Beijing. They are scheduled to fly to South Korea on Thursday and hold a news conference.

They say they want to try to reduce high tensions on the divided peninsula, assess the North's food shortages and help revive six-party nuclear disarmament talks.

Travelling with Carter are former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, ex-Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland and former Irish president Mary Robinson.

Efforts to improve North-South relations are deadlocked, with the North refusing to accept blame for two deadly border incidents last year.

The six-party talks have not been held since December 2008 and in May 2009 Pyongyang staged its second nuclear weapons test. In November it disclosed a uranium enrichment plant, a potential second way to build atomic weapons.

China has been pushing to restart the six-party forum that it chairs, but South Korea and the United States say the North must first mend cross-border relations.

The South's Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan has reacted sceptically to Carter's trip, saying he does not expect significant developments.

There are no plans at present for The Elders to meet President Lee Myung-Bak in Seoul, a presidential spokeswoman said, despite their wish to do so.

Before any major dialogue takes place, Seoul wants Pyongyang to accept responsibility for the sinking of a warship in March 2010 with the loss of 46 lives.

The North denies involvement in the sinking, and says its artillery attack on a South Korean island last November -- which killed four people including civilians -- was provoked by a Seoul military drill.

China's nuclear envoy Wu Dawei held talks in Seoul with Kim Wednesday on ways to resume the nuclear dialogue, which also involves Japan and Russia.

Beijing has proposed inter-Korean nuclear talks, following by dialogue between the North and the United States, to prepare for a full six-party meeting.

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Resumption of North Korea Peace Talks Imminent: Analysts
The Korea Herald
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Negotiations among regional powers over denuclearizing North Korea are likely to reopen at an early date, analysts and officials in Seoul said Wednesday, as a flurry of diplomatic events have been taking place on the divided peninsula this week.

As part of regional efforts to bring the reclusive Pyongyang back to the stalled negotiating table, China’s chief nuclear envoy is currently in Seoul for talks with South Korean officials. At the same time, a group of former statespersons are visiting Pyongyang for likely talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

International efforts to achieve North Korea’s denuclearization have been stalled for months as tensions between the two Koreas spiked following last March’s torpedoing of a South Korean warship and the November bombarding of a South Korean border island.

With China, host of the multinational dialogue, playing as the mediator, regional powers have been nearing agreement that nuclear envoys of the two Koreas should meet as the first step in resuming negotiations among all six dialogue partners: the two Koreas the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

China hopes inter-Korean nuclear talks will lead to Pyongyang-Washington dialogue and ultimately the six-party talks, which have been suspended since 2008 December.

“Partners are definitely moving toward the (resumption of) six-party talks,” Paik Hak-soon, a North Korean expert at the Sejong Institute think tank in Seoul, said over the telephone. “They cannot go on ignoring the nuclear issue forever, especially not the U.S.”

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at South Korea’s University of North Korean Studies, agreed that revival of the talks is eminent “although South Korea and China may have different ideas about the agenda of dialogue.”

“While China sees inter-Korean talks as a tool to resume the six-party talks, South Korea would want to bring in a wide range of pending issues ― such as North Korea’s last year attacks ― into the talks,” he said.

Government officials here have also been noting the positive changes among regional powers, once largely divided over when and how to resume the peace talks with the unpredictable, nuclear-armed state.

During their meeting, Beijing’s chief nuclear negotiator Wu Dawei and his South Korean counterpart Wi Sung-lac “confirmed their governments’ united position” that an inter-Korean nuclear disarmament dialogue should be held to pave the way for larger-scale denuclearization talks, according to officials at Seoul’s Foreign Ministry.

“The two sides also agreed that (the inter-Korean) talks should not be held as a formal act and make actual progress to move toward the six-party talks,” a ministry official said on the condition of customary anonymity.

The Chinese envoy also reaffirmed such position during his meeting Seoul’s Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan Wednesday.

Although Pyongyang has yet to unveil its position in holding nuclear talks with Seoul, it will “have no other way” but to agree and will also express regret about the attacks “in someway or another,” analysts said.

While hoping to reopen dialogue with Seoul and the other five partners, Pyongyang has so far denied involvement in the two deadly attacks.

The North has also refused in the past to add nuclear issues to the agenda of inter-Korean dialogue, claiming it does not have to discuss denuclearization with Seoul as its nuclear weapons are aimed at the U.S., not South Korea.

“From what I see, North Korea has already agreed with China as well as the U.S. to hold nuclear talks with the South,” said Paik. “But it naturally does not feel the need to immediately respond to South Korea’s request.”

Yang agreed.

“Kim Jong-il will express his willingness to unconditionally rejoin the six-party talks and open inter-Korean dialogue,” he said, adding such a message will likely be delivered by the group of former leaders who are currently in Pyongyang.

A delegation of former statespersons led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter arrived in North Korea Tuesday and is largely expected to meet with the North Korean leader.

The four members of the Elders, also including former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland and former Irish President Mary Robinson, will come to Seoul after their visit to the North to brief officials here on the results. The Elders is a private organization of retired state leaders founded by former South African President Nelson Mandela.

Despite the foreign minister’s previous remarks downplaying the delegation’s influence over pending issues on the peninsula, experts agreed that the former leaders will likely meet with the North Korean dictator and bring back a meaningful outcome.

“The delegation is formed with not just former heads of state, but global leaders. They will deliver Washington’s position to the North and the North is highly likely to unveil its position in detail over the stalled talks and its food conditions,” Yang said.

Carter, a Democrat from the state of Georgia who was president from 1977 to 1981, is well regarded in North Korea and last visited the communist state in August 2002 to secure the release of a jailed U.S. citizen.

The delegates have expressed their wishes to meet with Minister Kim as well as Unification Minister Hyun In-taek and possibly President Lee Myung-bak when they arrive in Seoul later this week as the last destination in their six-day trip, according to the Foreign Ministry here.

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South Korea Downplays Carter's Trip, Prods North Korea for Direct Talks
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

South Korea on Tuesday downplayed the significance of a high-profile trip to North Korea by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and other ex-leaders, saying Pyongyang should rather seek direct talks with Seoul.

"Personally, I don't see why North Korea would send a message through a third party or civilians when various channels for dialogue are open" between Seoul and Pyongyang, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said in a press briefing.

Describing the trip by the four members of a group called the Elders as "purely private," Kim said he plans to meet with them in Seoul after they end their three-day stay in the North, during which they hope to meet with leader Kim Jong-il and his heir-apparent son Jong-un.

South Korea "does not hold high expectations" for the Elders trip, Kim said, prodding the North to follow through with its own mantras that praise the spirit of unity between the Koreas.

The Elders delegation, which has balked at speculation that it is carrying any messages from governments, arrived in Pyongyang earlier Tuesday on a chartered plane from Beijing, North Korean media said.

The trip seeks to address a protracted deadlock in efforts to restart six-party nuclear talks centered on the North and ease an ongoing food crisis in the communist country, Carter said Monday.

China, which chairs the six-party talks that also include the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan and Russia, also sent its top nuclear envoy to South Korea on Tuesday. In comments to reporters at the airport, Wu Dawei said he sought to "coordinate" the positions of Seoul and Beijing over ways to restart the six-party dialogue.

Wu also said he met a day earlier with the Elders delegation, which includes former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, former Norwegian Prime Minister Dr. Gro Brundtland and former Irish President Mary Robinson.

Wu is making his first trip to South Korea since he met with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye-gwan, in Beijing on April 11. After the meeting, Wu proposed that the divided Koreas hold nuclear talks first to facilitate the resumption of six-party talks.

Seoul welcomed the proposal but continues to wait until Pyongyang issues a separate offer for such dialogue, which the North has long been reluctant to hold because it claims its nuclear arms are aimed at deterring a U.S. invasion rather than threatening Seoul.

Seoul and Washington demand the North guarantee that it will discontinue nuclear arms development or provocative behavior, such as the November bombardment of a South Korean island that killed four nationals here, before resuming the six-party talks.

The allies also say the North must cease its uranium enrichment activity that was unveiled late last year and is widely seen as an additional track to developing nuclear bombs.

The Elders is a group of global leaders, mostly consisting of former heads of state, brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007 to support global peace and humanity.

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C.  Japan

Envoy to U.N. Vows 'Utmost' Effort to Share Nuke Crisis Developments
The Japan Times
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Japan will do its best to keep the international community updated on the latest developments at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station in a prompt and transparent fashion, Ambassador to the United Nations Tsuneo Nishida said Tuesday.

"Regarding the accident, Japan will continue to do its utmost to distribute the latest information in a timely manner by making use of various means," Nishida told a forum held on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear crisis.

Among possible means Nishida named were notifications to the International Atomic Energy Agency, briefings to diplomatic delegations in Tokyo, and dissemination of information online through the websites of the Foreign Ministry and the Japanese embassies.
"With a view to maximizing our transparency, we will continue to promptly provide accurate information to the international community," he added.

Some countries, particularly Japan's neighbors, have voiced concern that Tokyo has not been forthcoming enough in disseminating timely information over the Fukushima nuclear accident.

Commenting on the ranking of the Fukushima nuclear disaster at the maximum level 7 on an international scale, the same as the Chernobyl disaster, Nishida said the two events needed to be distinguished.

"In comparison with the Chernobyl accident, in terms of what caused the accident and what actually happened in the accident, the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 power station is distinct from that at Chernobyl," Nishida noted.

While the Chernobyl reactor exploded, the reactors at Fukushima automatically shut down and were not impacted by large-scale fires, he said.

The total amount of radioactive substances released at Fukushima is "estimated to be far less" than Chernobyl, he added.

The incident in Japan has not led to any deaths from radiation exposure, which was not the case in Chernobyl, where over 30 deaths are said to have been caused directly by the accident.

Referring to a "road map" presented by Tokyo Electric Power Co. to stabilize its damaged reactors in about six to nine months, Nishida said the government aims to move from an "emergency response" to a "planned and stable action" phase.

"Japan is strongly committed to do its utmost to contribute to the international efforts toward enhanced nuclear safety," he said.

Nishida was among a host of speakers who addressed the symposium as a donor country to assist the areas and people affected by the Chernobyl accident.

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High Levels of Radiation in Areas Near Nuclear Plant Foreseen for a Year
The Mainichi Daily News
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The Japanese government unveiled a map of radioactive contamination on April 26, predicting residents in areas near the troubled nuclear power plant could be exposed to radiation far greater than permissible levels.

According to the contamination map unveiled by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, a cumulative dose of radiation for the year to March 11, 2012 is expected to reach 235.4 millisieverts in Akogi Kunugidaira in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, 24 kilometers northwest of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

The cities of Fukushima and Minami-Soma are also predicted to receive more than 10 millisieverts of radiation, 10 times the dose of artificial radiation an ordinary person is allowed to be exposed to a year.

Based on data collected from 2,138 monitoring points, the ministry calculated total cumulative doses of radiation between March 12 and April 21 and added them up to expected cumulative doses of radiation for the period thereafter to March 11, 2012. Expected radiation exposure was based on the assumption that the nuclear power plant continues to spew the same level of radiation as that detected on April 22. The ministry assumed that people in each monitoring point spend eight hours outdoors and 16 hours inside wooden houses a day. The ministry assumes the level of exposure to radiation in wooden houses is 40 percent lower than outdoors.

As a result, higher levels of radiation were predicted in areas northwest of the nuclear power plant. On April 11, the government designated areas outside a 20-kilometer radius of the nuclear plant that were expected to receive 20 millisievers per year as "planned evacuation zones." Ten locations in the zones including Namie, Iitate and Kawamata were predicted to receive more than 20 millisieverts of radiation. Ryozen in Date, 48 kilometers northwest of the nuclear plant, was predicted to receive 21.2 millisieverts per year.

The ministry had unveiled a similar map on April 11, but the map released this time predicted radiation levels in wider areas based on larger quantities of data. The ministry plans to update the map regularly and release it twice a month. The Cabinet Office's Nuclear Safety Commission says, "We should continue to monitor radiation levels."

The ministry also unveiled a map of radiation distribution based on data of radiation levels monitored in the atmosphere as of April 24. The ministry also plans to later release a map of soil contamination.

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Radiation Readings in Fukushima Reactor Rise to Highest Since Crisis Began
Tsuyoshi Inajima and Michio Nakayama
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Radiation readings at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi station rose to the highest since an earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems, impeding efforts to contain the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

Two robots sent into the reactor No. 1 building at the plant yesterday took readings as high as 1,120 millisierverts of radiation per hour, Junichi Matsumoto, a general manager at Tokyo Electric Power Co., said today. That’s more than four times the annual dose permitted to nuclear workers at the stricken plant.

Radiation from the station, where four of six reactors have been damaged by explosions, has forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people and contaminated farmland and drinking water. A plan to flood the containment vessel of reactor No. 1 with more water to speed up emergency cooling efforts announced yesterday by the utility known as Tepco may not be possible now.

“Tepco must figure out the source of high radiation,” said Hironobu Unesaki, a nuclear engineering professor at Kyoto University. “If it’s from contaminated water leaking from inside the reactor, Tepco’s so-called water tomb may be jeopardized because flooding the containment vessel will result in more radiation in the building.”

Decontaminating Robots

Tepco plans to decontaminate the two iRobot Corp. Packbot robots before sending them into a building tomorrow or later to further investigate the damage, spokesman Takeo Iwamoto said. High radiation in the reactor buildings prevents engineers from working inside them, Iwamoto said.

The cores in reactors 1, 2 and 3 and the spent fuels rods in reactor 4 have been damaged. Tepco has been using fire trucks, concrete pumps and other emergency measures for nearly seven weeks to pour millions of liters of water to cool the units after the accident.

Tepco started moving the radioactive water, which leaked to the basements and trenches, to a waste storage facility on April 19. Tepco transferred 1.89 million liters of the water from the trenches near reactor No. 2 as of 7 a.m. today, Iwamoto said. The utility plans to install a second pump after transferring 2.5 million liters.

Less Damage

Tepco shares fell 3.3 percent to 412 yen today in Tokyo. The shares are down about 80 percent since the quake and tsunami struck on March 11, leaving almost 26,000 people dead or missing.

Reactors 1 and 2 are less damaged than estimated, Tepco said in a statement today.

As much as 55 percent of the No. 1 reactor core at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi station was damaged, compared with its earlier estimate of 70 percent.

“We revised the core damage data because some readings on the containment vessel monitors were wrong,” Matsumoto said. “There was also a recording mistake. We are investigating why this happened.”

The assessment for the No. 2 reactor was cut to 25 percent from 35 percent, while that for the No. 3 unit was raised to 30 percent from 25 percent.

“It seems a reasonable estimate that three reactor cores may be damaged to a similar extent,” said Unesaki. The new estimate “doesn’t indicate lower or higher risks at the plant.”

Radiation in Tokyo’s water supply fell to undetectable levels for the first time since March 18, the capital’s public health institute said today.

The level of iodine-131 in tap water fell to zero yesterday, and cesium-134 and cesium-137 also weren’t detected, the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health said today.

Tokyo residents were told on March 23 that the city’s water was unsafe for infants after iodine and cesium levels exceeded guidelines.

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D.  Nuclear Safety

India to Set Up Independent Nuclear Watchdog
Nirmala George
Business Week
(for personal use only)

India has decided to set up an independent watchdog to oversee all of its nuclear reactors in view of mounting concerns about the safety of such installations.

Those concerns have intensified since an earthquake-spawned tsunami knocked out cooling systems at a Japanese nuclear power plant, unleashing massive amounts of radiation into the environment. But discontent over the country's atomic energy has been simmering for some time: Residents of a western Indian town have complained about the safety of a plant planned for their community and demanded more compensation for moving.

V. Narayanswamy, a minister in the prime minister's office, said Tuesday, that the government is preparing a bill to be introduced in the next session of parliament to create an autonomous nuclear regulatory authority.

At a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, top government leaders also decided to go ahead with the nuclear power plant in Jaitapur.

"The government is satisfied with the safety aspects of the Jaitapur nuclear plant," Narayanswamy said.

In response to concerns of the residents of the small village in Maharashtra state, the government has decided to increase the compensation already paid and will reach out to local people to assure them of the plant's safety, said Prithviraj Chauhan, chief minister of Maharashtra.

"We have made detailed presentations on Jaitapur to all political parties. The political dialogue will continue and special efforts will be made to convince people that safety will not be compromised," Chauhan said.

Energy-starved India is making a big push for nuclear power to drive its booming economic growth. The government is promoting nuclear energy as a clean and environmentally friendly alternative to polluting coal-fired power plants.

Nuclear energy forms only 3 percent of power available in India at present. The government has announced plans to increase the share of its nuclear power generation to 13 percent of its energy basket by 2030 to meet the rising demand for electricity.

Construction is to start this year on the first two of six units at the proposed $10 billion plant in Jaitapur, billed as one of the biggest in the world. The French company Areva is building the plant, which will generate 9,900 megawatts of power when completed. The first unit is expected to start producing power in 2019.

India's environment minister Jairam Ramesh told reporters Tuesday that each of the reactors at Jaitapur would be a stand-alone plant with its own safety system.

Jaitapur is about 260 miles (420 kilometers) south of Mumbai, India's financial hub and the Maharashtra state capital.

At Tuesday's meeting, Prime Minister Singh also directed officials to make public the findings of recent safety reviews carried out at all of India's nuclear power plants in a bid to remove doubts that may have arisen.

The safety audits of India's 20 nuclear plants were conducted after the Japanese crisis.

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Government Pledges Jaitapur Plant Safety Amid Japan Crisis
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India will tighten safety systems at the proposed $10 billion nuclear plant in Jaitapur, potentially the world's largest, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said on Tuesday, after protests against the plan turned violent in recent weeks following last month's nuclear disaster in Japan.

Clashes between protesters and police last week killed one person and injured at least 20 near the plant site in Jaitapur, Maharashtra, where anger over land acquisition has intensified on fears of a similar disaster in India.

In farming and fishing villages near the proposed site, posters depict scenes of last month's devastation at Japan's Fukushima and warn of what could be repeated at the proposed 9,900 megawatt (MW) plant 300 km (185 miles) south of Mumbai.

The government has reaffirmed its intent to scale up its nuclear power capacity, seen as a key way to meet the country's energy thirst, despite safety fears.

A high-level body including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met on Tuesday to draw up plans including tightening safety standards for reactors and inviting an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team to conduct an audit.

"The pause was to look at the safety issue. Today, a very important decision has been taken that each reactor in Jaitapur... will have a stand-alone safety system, a dedicated operating and maintenance system," minister Ramesh told a press conference after the meeting.

"This is a very major step forward. Fukushima saw the cascading of the failure of one reactor, and that is what caused much of the public concern on Jaitapur."

During a December visit to India by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the two countries signed a framework agreement for state-owned Areva to build two of its next generation 1,650-megawatt EPR reactors at Jaitapur and supply reactor fuel for 25 years in a deal worth 7 billion euros ($10.1 billion).

The site in Maharashtra may host up to six reactors, India says, which would make it the world's largest.

During last week's protest, piles of burning tyres blocked roads to the plant site, buses and a local hospital were attacked, and a police station near Jaitapur was ransacked.

"We are engaging with the society there," Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister of the state of Maharashtra said.

"A substantial compensation package has been worked out by the government of Maharastra and NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd) and will be announced soon," he said.

India suffers from a peak-hour power deficit of about 12 percent that acts as a brake on an economy growing at nearly 9 percent and causes blackouts in much of the country. About 40 percent of Indians, or 500 million people, lack electricity.

India operates 20 mostly small nuclear reactors at six sites with a capacity of 4,780 MW, or 3 percent of total power capacity. It hopes to lift its nuclear capacity to 7,280 MW by next year, more than 20,000 MW by 2020 and 63,000 MW by 2032 by adding nearly 30 reactors.

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Russia to Propose Nuclear Plan at G8: Medvedev
(for personal use only)

Russia is to propose a plan to boost safety at the world's nuclear power plants at the G8 summit in May, President Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday on the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe.

"In May of this year Russia will come forward with a concrete initiative on increasing security of nuclear power stations at the Group of Eight summit," the Kremlin quoted Medvedev as saying in a statement.

"They will be related to increasing responsibility of the countries using nuclear energy," Medvedev said.
Among other things, the countries should bear responsibility for reacting to nuclear accidents in a timely and efficient way, Medvedev said.

"We also believe that additional security requirements are needed for the construction and maintenance of nuclear power plants."

Those rules, the Kremlin chief said, should be spelled out in international legal documents and made obligatory for all states.

He added that international organisations including the International Atomic Energy Agency should be tasked with enforcing those rules.

He said "principles of information openness and absolute transparency (should) become the norm for the work of all nuclear power stations in the world."

The Soviet Union famously stayed silent on the Chernobyl disaster for three days, with the official news agency TASS only reporting an accident there on April 28, after the Forsmark nuclear plant in Sweden recorded unusually high radiation.

The operator of Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, Tokyo Electrical Power Co. (TEPCO), has also come under fire over its information policy after the accident triggered by a killer quake this year.

The nuclear crisis in Japan sparked global concern about the viability of nuclear energy, and prompted some countries to carry out inspections at their atomic facilities.

Medvedev said in China that ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan should not hinder the development of atomic energy and stop "human progress."

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E.  Nuclear Energy

Thailand Delays First Nuclear Power Plant to 2023
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Thailand has delayed its first nuclear power plant project by three years to 2023 on mounting public concerns after Japan's nuclear crisis, Energy Minister Wannarat Channukul said on Wednesday.

"The meeting of the state National Energy Policy Committee decided to postpone Thailand's nuclear power plant project by another three years," Wannarat said in a statement.

Under the initial power development plan for 2010-2030, Thailand's first nuclear power plant was scheduled to begin operation in 2020. It planned to build five nuclear power plants with capacity of 1,000 megawatts per plant.

Thailand's nuclear power plant development committee is reviewing the plan in line with the International Atomic Energy Agency and Japan's nuclear crisis raised concerns about the project, the statement said.

The delay is expected to strengthen demand for domestic gas. Natural gas accounts for about 70 percent of fuel for power generation in Thailand.

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Italy Plans to Reassess Nuclear Power in Few Years
Catherine Hornby
(for personal use only)

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi hopes to revive plans to relaunch Italy's nuclear energy sector in one or two years, he said on Tuesday after the government last week shelved plans to allow the construction of new plants.

Following mounting public concern over safety in the wake of the disaster at Japan's Fukushima reactor, the government scrapped plans for a referendum called previously to win public approval for new reactors.

"If we had held the referendum, we would have had to abandon nuclear energy for a long time," Berlusconi said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"But I hope that in one or two years we can return to the option after we have more clarity on the technology."

He said that contracts drawn up between Italian utility Enel and France's EDF would not be canceled. The firms have said they want to press ahead with joint plans to start building nuclear power plants in Italy in 2013.

Italy, in a seismically active area with a long history of destructive earthquakes, had already announced a one-year moratorium on its nuclear plans.

Last week, the government took proposed measures, which would have covered the siting, design and construction of new plants, out of a decree that would have been subject to a referendum in June if the measures had been included.

Speaking on the 25th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Berlusconi also reaffirmed his hopes that nuclear power would play an important role in Italy's future energy supply.

Before the disaster in Japan, the prime minister had said he hoped atomic plants could generate a quarter of electricity requirements in Italy. The country relies almost entirely on foreign imports of oil and natural gas.

In 1987, the Italian public voted to reject nuclear energy after the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine. Environmental groups and several opposition politicians had called on the public to do the same before the plans were scrapped last week.

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F.  Links of Interest

Effects of Chernobyl Tragedy Should be Compensated: Liechtenstein
Xinhua News Agency
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Japan Says Fukushima 'Different from Chernobyl'
Shingo Ito
(for personal use only)

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A Visit to Chernobyl
Ban Ki-Moon
The New York Times
(for personal use only)

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DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of Partnership for Global Security. Partnership for Global Security takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.

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