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Nuclear News - 4/5/2011
PGS Nuclear News, April 5, 2011
Compiled By: Matthew Kapuscinski

A.  Iran
    1. Iran Overcomes All Pressures: Leader, PressTV (4/3/2011)
    2. Bushehr Plant Can Resist Quake, but Still Endangers the Gulf, Al Arabiya News Channel (4/2/2011)
    1. Carter to Visit North Korea in Final Week of April: Source, Yonhap News Agency (4/4/2011)
    2. U.S. Confident on Ability to Intercept North Korean Missiles, The Korea Herald (4/3/2011)
    3. South Korea's Lee Says North Korea Not Sincere on Talks, AFP (4/1/2011)
C.  Nuclear Safety
    1. Containment of Radiation From Fukushima Plant Expected to Take Several Months: Aide to PM, The Mainichi Daily News (4/5/2011)
    2. UN Nuke Chief: Japan Crisis a 'Major Challenge', Associated Press (4/4/2011)
    3. Japan to Dump Radioactive Water Into Sea, Shingo Ito, AFP (4/4/2011)
    4. TEPCO to Study Wrapping Nuke Reactors in Sheeting as Airborne Radiation Soars, Xinhua News Agency (4/4/2011)
    5. UN Nuclear Inspectors Visit Syria, Associated Press (4/1/2011)
D.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Call for Joint UK-French Nuclear Deterrent, AFP (4/2/2011)
E.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Merkel Commission Seeks Early Nuclear Exit, Handelsblatt Reports, Ragnhild Kjetland, Bloomberg (4/4/2011)
    2. South Korea Has 680 Tons of Spent Fuel Rods, Arirang News (4/4/2011)
    3. Review into Braka Nuclear Facility Ordered, Michael Palmer, Utilities Middle East (4/3/2011)
    4. Turkish Nuclear Plans on Mediterranean Raise Fears, Selcan Hacaoglu, Business Week (4/2/2011)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. What's Going on at Japan's Damaged Nuclear Power Plant?, Mayumi Negishi, Reuters (4/4/2011)
    2. Mounting Alarm Over US Use of Depleted Uranium Arms in Libya, Rob Edwards, Herald Scotland (4/3/2011)

A.  Iran

Iran Overcomes All Pressures: Leader
(for personal use only)

The Leader of the Islamic Revolution says Iran has withstood all the pressures exerted on the country by hegemonic powers over its peaceful nuclear activities.

Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei told a host of ranking military officials on Sunday that arrogant powers used all their political, economic and propaganda potentials to dissuade Iran from pursuing its civilian nuclear program, but to no avail.

“Now, after eight years, Islamic Iran has overcome all pressures,” the Leader further said.

Ayatollah Khamenei further touched upon the recent developments in some regional countries, describing the events as “auspicious.”

“The auspicious movement which has begun in the region today is partly the results of the Iranian nation's resistance, and more developments will take place in the region in future,” the Leader further told the military top brass.

"Almost all analysts in the world acknowledge that the current movement in the Middle East region and North Africa has stemmed from the Iranian nation's uprising [which toppled the Pahlavi regime in 1979]," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

The Leader underscored that the triumph of the Islamic Revolution has changed “regional and international equations,” and shattered the hegemonic powers' illusion of grandeur.

Ayatollah Khamenei also called on the Iranian Armed Forces to hone their skills and upgrade their defense capabilities.

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Bushehr Plant Can Resist Quake, but Still Endangers the Gulf
Al Arabiya News Channel
(for personal use only)

Located in a seismically active area, Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power is reportedly built to withstand an earthquake of a high magnitude, but due to its ageing equipments and lack of regular checks some say it still poses a threat to the Arab Gulf region.

“Bushehr has been designed to withstand an earthquake of magnitude 8, and possibly up to magnitude 9,” said Dina Esfandiary, a research assistant at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“This means that despite being located in an earthquake-prone zone, it should not be affected by tremors,” Esfandiary added.

Risks, ageing equipments

The 1,000-megawatt power plant combines German and Russian technologies, with its reactor’s cooling pumps supplied by the Germans at the beginning of the project in the 1970s under the rule of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

Russia used the German cooling pumps to include them into the finishing stage of the project but three weeks ago they failed, Esfandiary said . “This is proof that the plant's equipment is old.”

According to Russia's state-run nuclear energy agency, Rosatom, the "Internal elements belonging to one of the four cooling pumps were found damaged."

Like Japan, an earthquake can disrupt Bushehr’s electrical supply, which would prevent the cooling system from working efficiently. “The cooling pumps are already experiencing breakage,” Esfandiary said.

She added that an earthquake can damage the plant by cracking its containment dome, the structure enclosing a nuclear reactor, which is designed to contain the escape of radiation.

Bushehr was built in Iran’s south east region, right at the intersection of the Arabian, African and Eurasian tectonic plates. In 2002, the Bushehr area was hit by a 4.6 magnitude earthquake.

Most affected countries

With Iran’s neighbours in the Gulf held susceptible if any earthquake to damage Bushehr’s plant; Kuwait, UAE and Saudi Arabia will face the most severe consequences.

The Gulf Arab states depend on desalination plants for their freshwater and radiation-contaminated water supplies of the Gulf can trigger a disaster.

Some upgrades

Bushehr unlike Chernobyl had some design upgrades. “Its containment dome is made of reinforced concrete. It also has other safety mechanisms such as automatic control and containment systems used in Western power plants,” she said.

Meanwhile, to alleviate risks, Iranians should “increase transparency and encourage further cooperation with visiting IAEA officials in order to receive safety training, and not push for premature fuelling of the reactor.”

The world was alarmed and started showing more vigilance over its existing nuclear plants after Japan’s recent massive quake, measured 8.9 on a Richter scale, which left not only 10,000 people dead, but menaced the surviving population with leaking nuclear radiation.

Germany shut down seven of its pre-1980s nuclear reactors for three months, Russia ordered reviewing its nuclear sector, United States underwent intensive review for six of its nuclear plants, and France pondered over delaying the building of a new-generation EPR reactor.

It is estimated that, worldwide, 20 percent of nuclear reactors are operating in areas of significant seismic activity. IAEA has a Safety Guide on Seismic Risks for Nuclear Power Plants.

Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said that Bushehr facility in Iran is resistant to earthquakes, and that Bushehr is under constant control of IAEA, despite IAEA's insistence for on regular checks of the plant and geological surveys of the area.

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Carter to Visit North Korea in Final Week of April: Source
Yonhap News Agency
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Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will make his private trip to North Korea during the final week of this month, a source here said Monday, in another sign of easing tension between Washington and Pyongyang.

The visit, scheduled from April 26-28, according to the source who declined to be named, comes after a North Korean economic delegation ended a 16-day U.S. tour and a senior North Korean diplomat attended a seminar hosted by a U.S. think tank in Berlin last week.

Carter, who visited the communist country last August to bring back an American man detained for illegal entry, will travel to Pyongyang this month with members of a group comprised of former heads of state from around the world, the source added.

It was not clear which members would accompany the former president, long considered a troubleshooter after he defused tension on the peninsula by striking a deal with Pyongyang in 1994.

The U.S. State Department has described the upcoming trip by Carter as "strictly private." It nonetheless comes amid a series of signs that tension may be lowering in the region in a possible prelude to the resumption of the six-party nuclear talks on North Korea.

"Carter's coming visit will provide a chance to see if there is a change in North Korea's behavior and also gauge the possibility of a breakthrough" in the deadlock over the talks, the source said.

South Korea said earlier Monday that it has approved two additional batches of civilian humanitarian aid to North Korea while a trio of U.N. agencies called last month for 430,000 tons of international food assistance to feed 6 million people in the North.

North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world but continues to invest heavily in arms development and raise tension in an effort to up the ante in negotiations with the outside world.

In November, the North bombarded Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea, killing four people and prompting Seoul to suspend even the most basic humanitarian aid for four months.

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U.S. Confident on Ability to Intercept North Korean Missiles
The Korea Herald
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The U.S. has the capability to intercept ballistic missiles from North Korea, a senior U.S. official has said.

Patrick O’Reilly, director of the Missile Defense Agency, made the remarks at a House Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday in response to a lawmaker who expressed “concerns about the ground-based midcourse defense system in Alaska and California,” citing “back-to-back flight test failures this past year.”

“We have two versions of the GMD missile. The first version is called capability enhancement No. 1 and it’s the kill vehicle that has performed five times on flight, has done very well, three intercept attempts and it’s intercepted three times,” O’Reilly said, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon on Friday.

Critics are skeptical of the effectiveness of the costly global missile defense systems, citing technological shortfalls and political ramifications, although Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other senior U.S. officials have expressed confidence in the U.S. capability to shoot down any ballistic missiles coming from North Korea.

“Those are flights out of ― the target out of Kodiak, Alaska, and the intercept out of Vandenberg (California),” O’Reilly said.

“That roughly equates to the geometry of a launch out of North Korea and an intercept coming out of Fort Greely, Alaska. So for those type of scenarios and for that system, the CE-1, we remain to have confidence in the system based on the data we’ve seen.”

The U.S. also “started a second version of the missile kill vehicle in 2005 based on obsolescence reasons; parts, manufacturers and so forth not producing parts anymore that ― and the electronic systems that we needed,” he said. “We redesigned the system, upgraded it, and actually gave a greater sensitivity and greater capability. However, it failed on the first flight test due to a quality control problem. We corrected that quality control problem and in the second flight it didn’t happen.”

Due to budget constraints, the Obama administration in 2009 cut back a plan that would have increased the number of interceptors to 44 from 30, but administration officials insist 30 interceptors are enough to counter North Korea’s missile capability “for some years to come.”

Speaking at the hearing, Bradley Roberts, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, said that the U.S. has been improving the GMD system against “the threats that might emerge from states like North Korea and Iran to conduct limited strikes on the United States.”

Gates said in January that North Korea’s missiles and nuclear weapons will pose a threat to the U.S. within five years. Some experts say Pyongyang may have already developed nuclear warheads small enough for missile payloads.

Nuclear-armed North Korea has made a series of provocations in recent months, including the sinking of a South Korean warship and shelling of a border island that killed 50 people last year.

In November, Pyongyang also disclosed a uranium enrichment plant that could be used to make nuclear weapons apart from its plutonium program. The North claims its intention is to generate electricity.

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South Korea's Lee Says North Korea Not Sincere on Talks
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South Korea's President Lee Myung-Bak Friday dismissed North Korea's offers of dialogue as insincere and said the communist state must apologise for two deadly border incidents last year.

"They (North Korea) need to express their apology for what they have done," Lee told a news conference. "After that, we can move on to the next step.

"But if they threaten, attack and kill and after a period of time, say 'We should meet and talk', I think it is not sincere."

Cross-border relations have been icy since Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing a warship in March 2010 with the loss of 46 South Korean lives.

Tensions rose further after the North's shelling of the South's Yeonpyeong border island last November, which killed four people including two civilians.

The South demands its neighbour accept blame for both incidents before relations can improve.

The North angrily denies involvement in the warship sinking, and says its shelling was provoked by a South Korean artillery drill on the island. On Thursday it told Seoul's leaders they face a choice between dialogue or war.

The South's military said the same day it was open to talks if the North suggested them. But it reiterated demands for an apology and warned of tough punishment for any fresh attacks.

In signs of an apparent slight easing of tensions, the South on Friday authorised a private aid shipment for its neighbour -- the second such case this week.

The unification ministry, which must approve all cross-border contacts, said it would let the Korean Sharing Movement send bread, milk powder and candies for children worth 30 million won (US$27,000).

Seoul banned all private shipments after the island attack, but eased its policy Thursday to allow a shipment of tuberculosis medicine.

Lee, a conservative former construction executive, has angered the North by scrapping his liberal predecessors' aid and engagement policy. He links major assistance to progress in Pyongyang's nuclear disarmament.

He said Friday he remains willing in principle to hold a summit with the North's leader Kim Jong-Il but indicated he is not in a hurry to do so.

Since last November's attack the South has been strengthening defences on its frontline islands near the disputed Yellow Sea border, and pushing reforms to integrate the operations of the army, navy, air force and Marine Corps.

The military was criticised for what was seen as a feeble response to the North's rocket and artillery barrage.

A group of retired generals has criticised some changes, claiming they will weaken the armed forces.

But Lee vowed to press ahead and said he hoped the process would be completed this year. "We should reform the military this time and each (organisation and individual) should abandon selfish thoughts," he said.

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C.  Nuclear Safety

Containment of Radiation From Fukushima Plant Expected to Take Several Months: Aide to PM
The Mainichi Daily News
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The containment of radioactive materials released from the quake- and tsunami-crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant will take several months, an aide to Prime Minister Naoto Kan said over the weekend.

"Containing the radioactive substances within several months is one goal," Goshi Hosono, a special adviser to Kan, told a Fuji TV program on April 3.

Hosono serves as secretary general of a special task force set up at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s headquarters in Tokyo following the accident. TEPCO is the operator of the troubled plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

Radioactive materials have been emitted from the power station as officials have put priority on cooling down overheating nuclear fuel rods and venting radioactive steam from the containment vessels as part of efforts to avoid a meltdown of the reactor cores.

"We've dealt with that situation and now should focus on not releasing radioactive materials any more," Hosono told reporters.

The government's official forecast of prolonged efforts to contain radiation suggests that its evacuation and confinement orders for local residents will also be protracted. As residents have been suffering from the enormous mental and physical burden of facing the invisible terror of radiation, experts have advised the government to adopt mid- and long-term guidelines to help residents make plans under the emergency situation.

Under the Nuclear Safety Commission's anti-disaster guidelines, residents are advised to stay indoors if potential external exposure to accumulated radiation is expected to be between 10 to 50 millisieverts and to evacuate an area if the figure is predicted to top 50 millisieverts. The guidelines clearly state that if a directive for residents to stay indoors is expected to be prolonged, "evacuation needs to be taken into consideration."

However, Seiji Shiroya, a member of the Nuclear Safety Commission, indicated during a press conference on April 3 that the government does not need to review the current directive, saying, "The radiation levels have been on a downward trend."

Nihon University professor Mitsuru Fukuda, well versed in crisis management, is concerned that ordering residents to stay indoors for a lengthy period of time could drive their livelihoods to the brink of collapse as local economies could be suspended due to harmful rumors.

"If the settlement of the crisis is to take several months, the government may well expand the evacuation areas but should not prolong the stay-indoors directive. If the latter was the case, authorities wouldn't be able to secure the safety of those who deliver food, water and other supplies to the area," Fukuda said.

"The central and local governments should establish a system for mass evacuations, including specifying the possible duration of evacuation and whether residents can work after evacuation," he said.

Residents outside a 30-kilometer radius of the crisisicken power plant are also concerned over whether they should proceed with sowing crops and raising livestock.

"The government should present data on the accumulated amount of radiation as well as the expected amount of radiation releases by region in deciding whether to evacuate residents or declare an area safe," said Shunichi Yamashita, professor at Nagasaki University who is serving Fukushima Prefecture as an adviser over the management of radiation health risks, when he visited the Fukushima prefectural village of Iitate on April 1. The village is outside the 30-kilometer radius of the plant but became the subject of controversy over whether its residents should be evacuated as high levels of radiation were earlier detected.

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Japan to Dump Radioactive Water Into Sea
Shingo Ito
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Japan said Monday it will dump over 10,000 tons of low-level radioactive water into the Pacific as part of emergency operations to stabilise its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

The announcement of the last resort measure came as the Bank of Japan said business confidence had plummeted since the earthquake and tsunami hit on March 11, plunging the country into its worst crisis since World War II.

The UN atomic watchdog chief Yukiya Amano, said that the three-week-old emergency, which Japan has predicted will last for months, meant an end to a "business as usual" approach to nuclear power.

His comments appeared borne out when Japan signalled it may weaken its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, which are based on a continued heavy reliance on low-carbon atomic power, in light of the nuclear disaster.

Japan has battled to prevent full reactor meltdowns at its tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi plant and poured thousands of tons of water onto overheating fuel rods, a stop-gap measure that has created highly radioactive run-off.

To free up storage space for the radioactive run-off -- which has hampered crucial repair work and leaked into the Pacific -- operator the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said it would have to get rid of less toxic water.

It insisted the release would not harm marine life or seafood safety.

If people ate seafood from the affected sea water daily for one year, they would absorb about 0.6 millisievert of radioactivity, or about one fourth of a year's normal radiation from the environment, a TEPCO official said.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan's top spokesman, Yukio Edano, said in a televised press conference: "We have no choice but to release water tainted with radioactive materials into the ocean as a safety measure."

Fire engines and concrete boom pumps have dumped water onto overheating fuel rods ever since the quake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems and led to partial reactor meltdowns at the six-reactor plant.

As a result of the massive dumping operations, "highly radioactive waste water has accumulated at turbine buildings at Fukushima Daiichi, especially at the reactor unit two," said a TEPCO official.

"There is a need to release already stored water in order to accept the additional waste water" totalling 10,000 tons, as well as 1,500 tons of water from pits under reactor units five and six, he said.

Dumping the water -- the equivalent of more than four Olympic sized swimming pools -- would come "as soon as necessary preparations are made", he said.

Contamination from the plant has been found in the air, ground, seawater and, at lower concentrations, in regional produce including vegetables, dairy products, beef and, most recently, shiitake mushrooms.

The nuclear emergency, which has in many ways overshadowed the quake and tsunami that killed 12,020 people and left 15,512 missing, has also hit the economy hard, sending stocks reeling and hitting manufacturing output.

An updated version of the central bank's quarterly Tankan survey -- a key influence on monetary policy -- showed business confidence in the outlook for the next three months had plunged since the disaster.

Meanwhile, the nuclear crisis at Fukushima, the world's worst since Chernobyl in 1986, looked set to impact UN climate talks in Bangkok.

Nuclear energy has enjoyed a renaissance as a low-carbon energy source, but the crisis in Japan has highlighted its dangers and led several governments, including Japan's, to announce reviews of their energy policy.

"I think there will be a lot of political considerations," said the EU chief negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger on Sunday. "Certainly, this is something that has an impact on climate negotiations."

In Vienna, UN International Atomic Energy Agency chief Amano said the disaster had changed the world's approach to atomic power.

"The crisis at Fukushima Daiichi has enormous implications for nuclear power and confronts all of us with a major challenge," Amano said in an opening address to a special conference on nuclear safety.

Japan's Edano said Tokyo's climate goal -- to cut emissions by 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, if other big polluters do the same -- was now open to review along with many other policies.

"Not only the 25 percent reduction target but also many other challenges that Japan is facing now should be examined at one point because many areas have been impacted by the quake disaster," Edano said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun daily reported that the environment ministry's top bureaucrat Hideki Minamikawa had told reporters in Bangkok that "the reduction goal will be affected a great deal".

Because the carbon cut target was based on plans to build new reactors and to improve old ones, "both the target year and reduction percentage will be reviewed," Minamikawa was quoted as saying.

Resource-poor Japan meets about one third of its energy demand from nuclear energy and relies heavily on Middle Eastern oil, while its companies are leaders in energy efficiency and green technologies.

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TEPCO to Study Wrapping Nuke Reactors in Sheeting as Airborne Radiation Soars
Xinhua News Agency
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As radiation continues to leak into the air, sea and ground in northeastern Japan the government has instructed Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) owner of the crippled Fukushima power plant to study further emergency methods to contain the contamination, local media reports revealed Monday.

One such method floated by the central government is for TEPCO to entirely wrap four damaged reactors at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in a massive sheets.

According to government sources, the damaged 45-meter high containment buildings will be framed with skeletal structures to hold the sheeting, in a bid to limit the amount of radiation leaking from the faulty reactors into the atmosphere and the ground.

But the 950 million U.S. dollar plan has met with some skepticism from nuclear experts who said the move would have only limited effects on preventing radiation from leaking into the air and the earth.

Experts have suggested that he level of radiation inside the sheeting would subsequently increase making it even more difficult for workers to effectively conduct restoration activities at the crippled six-reactor plant.

A government source was quoted by local media as saying that the move was merely cosmetic and would only serve to mask the level of damage and danger posed by the stricken facility from the public.

As the government and TEPCO struggles to contain the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear travesty, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said it found mushrooms with radioactive levels far higher than the legal limit in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture.

The ministry said the mushrooms sampled contained 3,100 becquerels of radioactive iodine and 890 becquerels of radioactive cesium. The legal limits are 2,000 becquerels and 500 becquerels respectively, the ministry said.

As a result, the local government has asked farmers to voluntarily halt all shipments of mushrooms out of the prefecture.

Air samples at a height of between 160-650 meters above Fukushima Prefecture have also been found to exceed normal levels by ten times, said the science ministry.

Radiation of 0.30 microsieverts per hour was detected in the sky above Kawamata in the prefecture and the ministry said, " radioactive substances have spread to higher altitudes in the atmosphere."

However, the ministry also noted that in some areas, including Tohoku Prefecture and the Kanto area surrounding Tokyo, radioactive levels in the air had dropped.

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UN Nuke Chief: Japan Crisis a 'Major Challenge'
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

The Japanese reactor crisis poses a major challenge with enormous implications for nuclear power, the head of the U.N.'s atomic watchdog said Monday.

Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also stressed that the global community cannot take a "business as usual approach." Lessons must to be learned from what happened at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant after it was hit by a massive tsunami and earthquake on March 11 and has been releasing radiation into the environment ever since, he said.

Amano spoke at the opening session of a meeting that has drawn representatives from dozens of countries to scrutinize safety at each other's power plants.

"I know you will agree with me that the crisis at Fukushima Dai-ichi has enormous implications for nuclear power and confronts all of us with a major challenge," Amano told delegates. "We cannot take a business as usual approach."

The worries of millions of people around the world about the safety of nuclear energy "must be taken seriously," Amano said, and called for transparency and "rigorous adherence to the most robust international safety standards."

"It is clear that more needs to be done to strengthen the safety of nuclear power plants so that the risk of a future accident is significantly reduced," he said.

In other comments, Amano said the IAEA would like to send an international expert mission to Japan as soon as possible to carry out an assessment of the accident.

Looking to the future, he added that arrangements for putting international nuclear experts in touch with each other quickly after incidents like these need to be improved.

"I am confident that valuable lessons will be learned from the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident, which will result in substantial improvements in nuclear operating safety, regulation and the overall safety culture," he said.

Amano's comments were seconded by Li Ganjie of the National Nuclear Safety Administration, who is the president of the meeting. The meeting runs through April 14 and began with a moment of silence for victims of the Japanese disaster.

"Needless to say, the Fukushima accident has left an impact on global nuclear power development and has become a major event in nuclear history," Li said through a translator. "It stands testimony to the notion that nuclear safety is the lifeline and key to nuclear power and nuclear safety knows no boundaries."

The gathering, hosted by the Vienna-based IAEA, centers on the Convention on Nuclear Safety that came into being in the wake of the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents.

Adopted in 1994, it commits states party to it to submit reports on the safety of their civil nuclear facilities for review by their counterparts at gatherings held every three years. The idea is that questioning and peer pressure will keep countries on their toes. All countries with operating nuclear power plants are parties to the treaty.

A separate side meeting focused specifically on the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant is scheduled for Monday evening.

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UN Nuclear Inspectors Visit Syria
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

The International Atomic Energy Agency says inspectors are in Syria to visit a site being probed for clues about the country's suspected secretive nuclear activities.

Syria has denied covering up a clandestine nuclear program.

The site is an acid purification plant in Homs city that produces purified uranium ore as a byproduct. The IAEA is trying to determine whether, as Syria asserts, traces of uranium elsewhere come from the plant.

The Vienna-based nuclear watchdog said Friday the inspection is being conducted as planned. Damascus agreed to it some time ago.

Syria continues to deny IAEA inspectors the right to revisit their main focus — a site bombed in 2007 by Israeli warplanes that Washington called a nearly finished, secretly built nuclear reactor that could produce plutonium.

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D.  Nuclear Cooperation

Call for Joint UK-French Nuclear Deterrent
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A British junior defence minister is calling for London and Paris to develop and build a joint nuclear deterrent, The Guardian newspaper reported Saturday.

Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey put the proposal to French defence experts at the ambassador's residence this week and told The Guardian that the plan was warmly received.

Historic rivals Britain and France agreed a deal in November last year to create a joint military force and share nuclear testing facilities, heralding an unprecedented era of defence cooperation.

The idea comes as Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government implements eight percent defence spending cuts as it tries to get Britain's record deficit under control.

Britain currently has the capacity to have one of its ballistic missile submarines at sea, fully armed.

The coalition has deferred a decision on replacing Britain's nuclear weapons programme -- the Trident missile-based system on board its submarines -- until after the next general election, to be held by May 2015.

"The UK needs to revisit the case in the long term for the UK maintaining a permanent 24-7 at-sea capability. We pay an enormous premium to maintain this," Harvey said.

"It is quite feasible that we could continue with a permanent at-sea submarine patrol in conjunction with the French either with three British submarines as proposed to the current four.

"We could then rack up even bigger savings.

"We would be able to maintain separate command operations.

"It is unlikely we would face circumstances in which Britain would be faced with an external nuclear threat that would not apply to the French national interest at the same time.

"It is quite possible for the French and British to work together on research and development of replacement submarines, so nearly halving the development costs.

"Over a 25- to 30-year cycle... the potential is to save many billions of pounds (dollars, euros)," he said.

A decision on Trident has been put off as part of the coalition deal between Cameron's Conservatives and the smaller Liberal Democrats -- of which Harvey is a member -- who are against renewal.

In the defence agreement struck in November, Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy signed two treaties which they said would allow them to remain global players while cutting defence budgets.

The deal includes the shared use of aircraft carriers from about 2020, a joint rapid reaction force of up to 5,000 troops deployable from next year and plans to share nuclear testing equipment by 2015.

The second treaty covers plans to share technology in the testing of nuclear weapons -- although officials stressed this would not see the two neighbours share nuclear secrets, nor the codes to their nuclear submarines.

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E.  Nuclear Energy

Merkel Commission Seeks Early Nuclear Exit, Handelsblatt Reports
Ragnhild Kjetland
(for personal use only)

A commission appointed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to end nuclear power as soon as possible, Handelsblatt reported, citing panel members.

One member, Miranda Schreurs, said an exit as soon as 2022 might be possible, or the country could target 2017, which would give renewable energy a boost, Handelsblatt reported.

Klaus Toepfer, head of the commission, said Germany should get out of a technology that isn’t completely “manageable,” the newspaper reported.

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South Korea Has 680 Tons of Spent Fuel Rods
Arirang News
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There are a total of four nuclear power plants in Korea one in South Jeolla Province and three in Gyeongsang Province.

And according to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power, there are a total of 336-thousand spent fuel rods among these four plants as of September 2010.

Out of the four, Wolsong has the largest amount of used rods, followed by Kori, Youngkwang and Uljin.

Annually, 680 metric tons of spent fuel rods are produced in these reactors.

But by 2016, the containment facilities will be full and unable to hold any more used rods.

So, the government publicized its plans to build a nuclear waste depository and is supposed to start selecting the construction site next year.

Once through the nuclear fuel cycle, spent fuel rods are kept in a water tank to contain harmful nuclear radiation.

Korea doesn't allow reprocessing the rods nor does it have permanent containers for them, so they are left in the tanks, like Japan, for storage before they are recycled.

The spent fuel rods still retain 1 percent of the radiation compared to when in full use, and it takes seven years for the radioactive materials to diminish to a safe level.

What's more, the water used to store the rods also contains nuclear materials, so it needs to be properly disposed.

Each nuclear reactor currently holds around 18 million liters of this waste water.

Eventually they will be transported to a radioactive waste disposal facility in the southeastern city of Gyeongju, which is scheduled for completion in December 2012.

With the peak for nuclear waste storage quickly approaching, Korea needs to think about not only producing nuclear energy but safely disposing its waste as well.

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Review into Braka Nuclear Facility Ordered
Michael Palmer
Utilities Middle East
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The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation has been asked to provide a plan, detailing how it will apply lessons learned from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident to its own atomic ambitions, the Emirates News Agency has said.

In a letter sent to the company, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation has requested a full description of plans to review the disaster, and include any lessons learned in terms of the design, siting and operation of the proposed Braka nuclear facility.

FANR director General DR William D Travers said: “We understand the ENEC has been following developments since the tsunami struck Japan, and is considering whether there are any implications for their planned units.”

He continued: “We are also evaluating these developments to see if FANR’s existing requirements should be enhanced.

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Turkish Nuclear Plans on Mediterranean Raise Fears
Selcan Hacaoglu
Business Week
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Turkey plans to build a coastal nuclear power plant close to an earthquake-prone area, dismissing neighbors' fears that Japan's nuclear disaster shows that the new plant could be a risk to the whole Mediterranean region.

Greece and Cyprus say the move is a gamble that could cause catastrophe and want the European Union to scrutinize the EU candidate's plan in a debate fraught with political and historical baggage. Turkish officials insist the plant is safe and necessary to keep the country's strong economy going.

The EU is reassessing the whole 27-nation bloc's energy policy and questioning the role of nuclear power on a continent where no one can forget that Ukraine's 1986 Chernobyl disaster spewed radiation for thousands of miles (kilometers).

But Turkey is standing firmly by plans to build three nuclear power plants in the years ahead -- including one at Akkuyu on the Mediterranean coast, close to the Ecemis Fault, which an expert says could possibly generate a magnitude-7 quake.

Greece is staunchly opposed to the plant -- calling out its historic rival at an EU summit at which the bloc agreed to checks on its 143 reactors.

"Nuclear power for us is not an option because we are in a highly seismically active region," Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said in Brussels last week. "The EU will ask for stress tests to be carried out at existing and planned facilities in neighboring countries -- and we stressed the fact that Turkey is planning to build a nuclear site at Akkuyu."

France has several plants not far from the Mediterranean, Turkey's neighbors Armenia and Bulgaria already have them, and several countries around the sea have announced ambitions to build ones. Turkey's plan, however, is drawing particular attention because of its temblors.

Akkuyu is 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of the island of Cyprus, which has been divided between ethnic Greeks and Turks since 1974, when Turkey invaded. Turkey says the 1,200-megawatt Russian pressurized water reactor, the VVER-1200 -- a new model yet to be operated anywhere in the world -- will be quake-proof and meets the highest nuclear safety standards.

Turkey has already signed a deal with Russia's Rosatom agency for the plant's construction, which has yet to begin, and hopes the completed facility will start producing electricity in seven years.

"We are in an effort to realize everything in a plan with all security measures," Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan said. "Turkey is becoming more powerful in industry and technology day by day. It is obvious that it will be in great need of power."

Erdogan has repeatedly downplayed risks at nuclear power plants since a magnitude-9 quake off Japan's northeastern coast triggered a March 11 tsunami that crippled the cooling systems of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. The plant has been spewing radioactivity ever since and officials admitted Saturday that highly radioactive water was leaking into the sea.

Erdogan says all investments have 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 a few days after the Fukushima accident.

"I wonder whether those who oppose nuclear energy do not use computers or watch television because of the radiation risk?" he added.

So far no country has reached a conclusion on the safety requirements for nuclear plants following the Fukushima accident, according to Mujid S. Kazimi, director of the Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"But the lesson from Fukushima is not only to withstand strong earthquakes, but also to prevent loss of electric power systems needed for decay heat removal," Kazimi said in an email. "What is more important is to ensure that the complete loss of electric power will be avoided under the most severe expected external events."

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz says the high-end technology used in the construction of the Akkuyu plant will make it safer than Fukushima, which began operating in 1971. At Fukushima, nuclear engineers scrambled to prevent a total and simultaneous reactor meltdown at three reactors while dealing with overheating fuel rods in a damaged storage pool at a fourth reactor.

"I would not say 'yes' to anything that I was not comfortable about," Yildiz said.

But many in Turkey remember how Chernobyl contamination hurt the vital export of tea and hazelnuts and forced Turkish leaders to assure a worried public, drinking cups of tea daily in front of cameras to show it was not contaminated.

The nuclear standoff comes against a background of territorial disputes between Greece and Turkey, including in Cyprus. Activists have protested Turkey's nuclear plans at home and in Cyprus. Hundreds of protesters have marched in Istanbul, holding banners that read: "Don't let Akkuyu become Fukushima."

Greek President Karolos Papoulias joined the chorus last week, saying "the irrational insistence of Turkey to build a nuclear plant in a highly seismic region" endangers the safety of everyone in the region and "must be answered directly."

Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias said Cyprus, Greece and other southern European countries have raised the issue at the European Council.

"Mr. Erdogan must strictly get the message that earthquake-prone areas are not in the least appropriate to develop such projects," Christofias said.

But, fears of a strong earthquake near the nuclear power plant may be exaggerated, one expert said.

"It is possible, but with low probability," said professor Mustafa Erdik of the Istanbul-based Kandilli Quake Research Institute and Observatory, who has studied the fault line near the plant. "I don't think there will be any problem regarding the location and quake-design of the nuclear plant."

Erdik said, however, there was need for further scientific study since he last examined the site in 1987.

"Ecemis is an active fault zone. Its southward extension and distance from site is disputed and needs further evaluation," Erdik said. "It could possibly generate a magnitude-7 earthquake."

Turkey is also holding talks with Japanese companies for a second plant near the Black Sea coastal town of Sinop, 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of the North Anatolian Fault, which generated two powerful earthquakes that killed 18,000 people in western Turkey in 1999. Activists have also protested the selection of Sinop but with no immediate progress in that project, the spotlight is focused on Akkuyu.

Erdik said there was also "uncertainty" about the seismic activity near the proposed Sinop site.

Turkey has not disclosed the possible location of the third nuclear plant yet.

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F.  Links of Interest

What's Going on at Japan's Damaged Nuclear Power Plant?
Mayumi Negishi
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Mounting Alarm Over US Use of Depleted Uranium Arms in Libya
Rob Edwards
Herald Scotland
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