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Nuclear News - 5/12/2011
PGS Nuclear News, May 12, 2011
Compiled By: Eli Ginsberg

A.  Iran
    1. Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Plant Begins Operation, BBC News (5/10/2011)
    2. Iran Accepts EU Invitation For More Nuclear Talks, Associated Press (5/10/2011)
    3. Rosatom Starts Running Iran Plant at Low Level, Continues Tests, Anna Shiryaevskaya, Bloomberg (5/10/2011)
    4. Iran's Jalili Welcomes Talks With P5+1, PressTV (5/10/2011)
    1. South Korea: Kim Jong Il Can Attend Summit If Pyongyang Drops Nuke Plans, Ken Matsui and Yoshihiro Makino, Asahi (5/11/2011)
C.  Japan
    1. Workers Enter Nuclear Reactor Building To Begin Repairs, Takashi Sugimoto and Eisuke Sasaki, Asahi (5/11/2011)
    2. Hamaoka Shutdown Could Trigger Chain Of Power Shortages, Asahi (5/11/2011)
    3. Radiation In Soil Near Troubled Japan Nuclear Plant Exceeds Chernobyl Evacuation Level, The Mainichi Daily News (5/11/2011)
    4. Tokyo Electric Accepts Govt Conditions On Nuclear Compensation, Yoko Kubota, Reuters (5/10/2011)
    5. Japan Says Nuclear Policy Must Be Reviewed From Scratch, Chikako Mogi and Yoko Kubota, Reuters (5/10/2011)
    1. Obama Administration To Push For Test Ban Treaty, Susan Cornwell, Reuters (5/10/2011)
E.  Nuclear Safety
    1. U.S. Nuclear Plants To Step Up Emergency Plans: INPO, Roberta Rampton, Reuters (5/10/2011)
    2. UN Chief Warns Of Big Gaps In World Nuclear Safety, AFP (5/10/2011)
F.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Mongolia Denies Talks On Taking US, Japan Nuke Waste, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (5/11/2011)
    2. Atomic Energy Society Urges Creation Of Unified Nuclear Regulatory Agency, Ryoko Takeishi, Asahi (5/10/2011)
    3. German Panel To Endorse Closing Nuclear Plants, Ludwig Burger, Reuters (5/10/2011)
G.  Links Of Interest
    1. Israel To Spend $2B On Missile Defense, UPI (5/10/2011)

A.  Iran

Iran Accepts EU Invitation For More Nuclear Talks
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Iran has accepted the European Union's proposal for more talks about the country's controversial nuclear program.

A round of talks in Istanbul in January collapsed after Iran said it wouldn't freeze uranium enrichment.

EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said at the time that no new talks were planned but that world powers remained open to more discussions.

Iran's state TV says top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili sent a reply to Ashton suggesting more talks.

Tuesday's report says Jalili told Ashton the talks should be aimed at "cooperation over mutual points." He also said they should be fair, "respect rights of nations and avoid pressure."

The U.S. and its European allies suspect Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon, a charge Iran denies.

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Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Plant Begins Operation
BBC News
(for personal use only)

Iran's first nuclear power station has begun operating at a low level, says the Russian company that built it.

The generating unit at the Bushehr reactor was brought up to the "minimum controllable level of power" on Sunday.

"This is one of the final stages in the physical launch of the reactor," said Vladislav Bochkov, a spokesman for the Russian company Atomstroyexport.

Israel and other nations have expressed fears that the reactor could help Iran develop nuclear weapons.

In February, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had new information on "possible military dimensions" to Iran's nuclear plans.

But Tehran says its intentions are purely peaceful.

On Monday, a member of an Iranian parliamentary commission monitoring Bushehr said "final tests" were being conducted.

The following day, Atomstroyexport said it had launched "a self-supporting chain reaction" in the "active zone" of the plant's first reactor.

"This means that a nuclear reaction has begun," it said.

Iran's Fars news agency said the plant would start providing power to the national grid within two months.

Western concerns

The Bushehr project was begun in 1970s but it has been dogged by delays.

Construction on the plant was abandoned after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution until the mid-1990s, when Moscow reached a billion-dollar deal with Tehran to complete it.

In February, Iran had to remove fuel from the reactor "for technical reasons", amid speculation that the Stuxnet computer virus may be responsible.

The United States and other Western nations for years urged Russia to abandon the project, warning it could help Iran build atomic weapons.

But an agreement obliging Tehran to repatriate spent nuclear fuel to Russia eased those concerns.

In February, an IAEA report obtained by the BBC and made available online by the Institute for Science and International Security (Isis) - said Iran was "not implementing a number of its obligations."

These include "clarification of the remaining outstanding issues which give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme".

Six world powers are negotiating with Iran over its nuclear programme, and the country is subject to United Nations Security Council sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

Enriched uranium can be used for civilian nuclear purposes, but also to build atomic bombs.

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Iran's Jalili Welcomes Talks With P5+1
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Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili has welcomed talks with the P5+1 based on common grounds and in a pressure-free atmosphere.

"I welcome your return to talks for cooperation on common grounds," Jalili said in response to an earlier letter by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Press TV reported Tuesday.

Jalili described "respect for nations' rights and avoidance of pressure" as two very basic principles for cooperation, reiterating that the will of nations will finally overcome hegemonic relations in the word order.

The Iranian top nuclear negotiator said the era when powers insisted on unequal relations and disregarded the rights of nations has come over.

"Recent developments over the past few months have proved that Iran's package of proposals put forward three years ago is based on a real understanding of facts," Jalili noted.

The letter was submitted to Ashton, who represents the P5+1, by Iran's ambassador to the EU on Tuesday.

Iran and the P5+1 -- Britain , China, France, Russia, and the United States plus Germany -- held two rounds of multifaceted talks in Geneva in December 2010 and in the Turkish city of Istanbul last January.

In a letter sent to Iran in early February following the January talks in Istanbul, Ashton reiterated the group's position on Iran's nuclear program but also affirmed that the world powers were keen to continue talks with Iran without any preconditions.

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Rosatom Starts Running Iran Plant at Low Level, Continues Tests
Anna Shiryaevskaya
(for personal use only)

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor has been started at the minimum controllable level, which will be followed by more tests before full operation begins, said ZAO Atomstroyexport, the atomic power plant building unit of Russia’s Rosatom Corp. holding.

Iran’s first nuclear power plant, being built by the Russian company in the southern city of Bushehr, initiated the fission process, or criticality, which allows the atoms to split by themselves in a reaction without interference from operators, Atomstroyexport said in an e-mailed statement today.

The Russian builder plans to further test the reactor to ensure its safety, including educating personnel to operate the power unit, according to the statement.

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South Korea: Kim Jong Il Can Attend Summit If Pyongyang Drops Nuke Plans
Ken Matsui and Yoshihiro Makino
(for personal use only)

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak indicated he was prepared to invite North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to the second nuclear security summit in Seoul next spring if Pyongyang agreed to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Lee made his remark during a joint news conference May 9 with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during his visit to Berlin.

In September 2009, Lee proposed a comprehensive compromise plan that promised Pyongyang major economic cooperation and assurances that the Kim Jong Il regime would be maintained in exchange for North Korea abandoning its nuclear plans.

Analysts said the latest proposal by Lee may be designed to provide assurances to the United States and other participants of the nuclear security summit that Seoul was serious about implementing the comprehensive compromise plan.

North Korea has long argued that it cannot abandon its nuclear weapons plan as long as the United States is considered a threat. The latest proposal is likely designed to weaken that argument by Pyongyang.

However, the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program have been suspended since the provocative actions by Pyongyang, including the November 2010 artillery attack on Daeyeonpyeongdo island.

Kim has also shown no indication that he is prepared to abandon his nuclear ambitions.

The participants in the six-party talks have agreed to resume the discussions once talks between the United States and North Korea have been held after a meeting of the lead delegates to the talks from the two Koreas.

However, it remains to be seen if any talks between the two Koreas can be held. South Korea is seeking denuclearization measures in those talks, but North Korea has insisted that all issues be taken up at the six-party talks, rather than a bilateral forum.

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C.  Japan

Hamaoka Shutdown Could Trigger Chain Of Power Shortages
(for personal use only)

Given the routine electricity exchanges among power companies, the shutdown of all reactors at Chubu Electric Power Co.'s Hamaoka nuclear power plant could lead to dwindling power supplies of other regional utilities.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), already facing huge electricity shortages mainly because of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, is counting on other utilities, including Chubu Electric, for 1 gigawatt in power supply.

But with the Hamaoka reactors offline, Chubu Electric will have no surplus power to provide to TEPCO.

"With 1 gigawatt evaporating, how are we supposed to make up for it?" asked a clearly irritated TEPCO executive.

The Kan administration, which asked Chubu Electric to shut down all Hamaoka reactors until additional anti-disaster measures are in place, will likely postpone its policy decision on supply and demand of power in eastern Japan. That decision was originally scheduled for May 10.

Although their coverage areas are separated, regional power companies exchange power under a chain-like system.

The Electric Power System Council of Japan, consisting of power providers, publishes "rough measurements" on the power transmission capacities of different providers. It acknowledges that its figures are sometimes lower than the possible maximum amounts.

According to the council, Chubu Electric's supply capacity toward TEPCO is 1.03 gigawatts.

But power supply from Chubu Electric to TEPCO must go through a special class of substations that convert the frequency from 60 Hz to 50 Hz. This currently strictly limits the potential power supply to 1.03 gigawatts.

Banri Kaieda, the minister of economy, trade and industry, has asked Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) to supply power to TEPCO in light of the shutdown of the Hamaoka reactors.

KEPCO's supply capacity toward Chubu Electric is 2.5 gigawatts, so if 1 gigawatt is passed on to TEPCO, Chubu Electric can still receive 1.5 gigawatts.

An additional 0.3 gigawatt from Hokuriku Electric Power Co. would give Chubu Electric a capacity of 27.95 gigawatts in July, 9 percent above the projected peak demand in summer.

But the mutual supply of power is contingent on the presence of surplus supply capacities, which are largely absent at utilities in western Japan.

Since May, Kyushu Electric Power Co. has been receiving 0.4 gigawatt from Chubu Electric, but the supply will be discontinued after the shutdown of the Hamaoka plant.

Kyushu Electric has no prospect when it will be able to resume operations at the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors of its Genkai nuclear plant.

Since the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake, no reactors in Japan that were shut down for regular inspections have resumed operations.

Of the 11 nuclear reactors in Fukui Prefecture operated by KEPCO, three are out of service due to regular inspections, and three more are scheduled to undergo such inspections.

"The situation will be tough for us at KEPCO as well if we cannot bring them back to operation," an executive said.

One problem for utilities seeking to bring nuclear reactors back online is growing fears about nuclear power in communities that host nuclear plants because of the ongoing crisis in Fukushima Prefecture.

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Radiation In Soil Near Troubled Japan Nuclear Plant Exceeds Chernobyl Evacuation Level
The Mainichi Daily News
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The levels of radiation accumulated in soil near the crippled nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan far exceeded the level of radiation the then-Soviet Union had used as a criterion for urging people to evacuate at the time of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, threatening to plague local residents for a lengthy period.

Using aircraft, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology checked the cesium-137 (half life of about 30 years) and cesium-134 (half life of about two years) accumulated in soil in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy in April.

Cesium-137 that has longer effects, ranging from 3 million to 14.7 million becquerels per square meter, was detected in Namie, Futaba, Minamisoma, Iitate and Katsurao, northwest of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, in Fukushima Prefecture. The levels far exceeded 550,000 bacquerels per square meter, the level the then-Soviet Union had used as a criterion for urging people to evacuate at the time of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Based on recommendations from the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), the Japanese government used 20 millisieverts per year of radiation in the atmosphere as the criterion to designate evacuation areas in the wake of the nuclear accident in Fukushima. Therefore, there are areas that have not been designated as evacuation zones although they have larger amounts of accumulated radiation.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology says, "Radioactive substances in soil do not enter human bodies immediately." On the other hand, when authorities try to decide whether to allow local residents to return to their homes or resume farming, levels of soil contamination could be one of the hot topics of debate.

Hiromi Yamazawa, professor of environmental radiology at Nagoya University, said, "The problem with soil contamination is external exposure through gamma rays emitted from cesium adhered to soil." He said that replacing soil with non-contaminated soil is an effective way of reducing the concentration of radiation. He also said, "Replacing soil in lower layers with that from upper layers is also effective."

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Workers Enter Nuclear Reactor Building To Begin Repairs
Takashi Sugimoto and Eisuke Sasaki
(for personal use only)

Workers entered the No. 1 reactor building at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on May 10 to begin the process of cooling the reactor.

The workers' first task was repairing monitoring equipment within the reactor to give officials of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant's operator, a more accurate picture of the situation inside the building.

In order to cool the reactor core to below 100 degrees, workers have been pumping water into the pressure container itself as well as trying to submerge the containment vessel surrounding the pressure container.

A total of 9,911 tons of water had been pumped into the No. 1 reactor as of midnight May 9, but TEPCO officials said they did not know how much water had actually entered the pressure container or the surrounding containment vessel because gauges had been damaged in the crisis following the March 11 quake.

The workers in the No. 1 reactor building on May 10 started by fixing the water gauge on the pressure container. A display was installed to allow workers in the building to confirm measurements.

A TEPCO official said: "In order to confirm whether work is being carried out under safe conditions, having the water and pressure gauges operating properly and accurately knowing the condition of the core, is indispensable."

TEPCO officials also began inspecting piping that will be connected to the cooling mechanism.

A major problem for personnel working within the reactor building is the high level of radiation.

Some parts of the reactor building have levels of radiation between 600 and 700 millisieverts per hour, much higher than the maximum limit of 250 millisieverts of radiation that workers can be exposed to.

Before allowing workers within the reactor building, ventilation equipment was used to reduce the radiation levels. While there were some areas with radiation levels of 280 millisieverts per hour, most other areas within the reactor building had radiation levels between 10 to 100 millisieverts.

Workers had also found rubble within the reactor building, likely the result of hydrogen explosions. The building itself and the main equipment did not appear to be greatly damaged. No water leaks were found.

The ventilation equipment removed some of the dust within the building, but rubble, surfaces, pipes and equipment have been contaminated with radiation.

TEPCO officials had hoped to reduce radiation levels to 1 millisievert per hour.

After sources of radiation are determined, TEPCO officials are considering using lead mats or sheets to contain the radiation. Consideration is also being given to removing the rubble or wiping away radiation.

A TEPCO official said they were not planning to push back the timetable for cooling the reactors, but the company may change where piping is installed and reconsider the number of workers needed to do the work depending on the progress made.

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Japan Says Nuclear Policy Must Be Reviewed From Scratch
Chikako Mogi and Yoko Kubota
(for personal use only)

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said on Tuesday that renewable energy would be a key pillar of Japan's energy policy after the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years and that its nuclear policy must be reviewed from scratch.

The massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11 knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima plant in northeast Japan, and the prolonged crisis could hamper Japan's efforts to reduce its use of fossil fuels. The plant is still leaking radiation.

"The current basic energy policy envisages that over 50 percent of total electricity supply will come from nuclear power while 20 percent will come from renewable power in 2030. But that basic plan needs to be reviewed now from scratch after this big incident," Kan told a news conference.

In an energy plan unveiled last year, Japan said it planned to build at least 14 new reactors by 2030. Officials have acknowledged that proceeding as planned would be tough in the wake of the nuclear disaster.

"I think it is necessary to move in the direction of promoting natural energy and renewable energy," Kan added, citing wind, solar or biomass energy as possible alternative sources -- areas in which Japan lags globally.

Japanese engineers are still trying to gain control of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, whose cooling system was knocked out after the quake and tsunami and four out of the six reactors at the plant remain volatile.

Unpopular Kan, under fire for his handling of the Fukushima crisis, last week called for Chubu Electric's Hamaoka nuclear plant in central Japan to halt operations until it can be better defended against a major tsunami, and Chubu on Monday reluctantly agreed to this.

While some have lauded Kan's calls, several business leaders and media, which tend to be close to the politically influential nuclear power industry, have criticised his move as being too abrupt and lacking a sound explanation.

Kan defended his decision, saying that the request was made after careful deliberation.

Japan will need to conduct a thorough investigation into the nuclear incident, Kan said, adding he wants to call on the international community for safer use of nuclear power.

Nearly 26,000 people were killed or are still missing after the quake and tsunami which triggered the world's biggest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The prime minister, who is the fifth leader of Japan in as many years, is likely to speak about his country's atomic crisis at the Group of Eight summit at the end of May in France.

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Tokyo Electric Accepts Govt Conditions On Nuclear Compensation
Yoko Kubota
(for personal use only)

Tokyo Electric Power Co , the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, accepted on Wednesday government conditions for state support to compensate those affected by the crisis, Jiji news agency reported.

Trade minister Banri Kaieda, who oversees energy policy, said on Tuesday that the government would not set an initial limit on Tokyo Electric's liability for damages caused by its plant leaking radiation, and that the utility would be expected to compensate the victims of the disaster in a timely manner

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Obama Administration To Push For Test Ban Treaty
Susan Cornwell
(for personal use only)

The Obama administration said on Tuesday it was preparing a push for approval of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, arguing that Washington no longer needs to conduct nuclear tests but needs to stop other countries from doing so.

Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher said a legally binding global ban on testing would help pressure states like Iran from engaging in illicit nuclear activities and discourage an arms race in Asia, where rivals India and Pakistan have conducted nuclear explosions.

She declined to give a precise time when President Barack Obama would seek the Senate vote on the treaty, which the chamber rejected in 1999 when Bill Clinton was president.

There is widespread international support for the test ban treaty, which has been ratified by more than 140 countries, but it cannot come into effect because some nuclear powers like the United States and China have not ratified it. Proponents say U.S. ratification could help get other countries with nuclear programs to sign on.

In the coming months, the administration would seek to educate the Senate and public on the treaty's merits, Tauscher said. When the Obama administration does seek a vote, "we intend to win that vote," Tauscher said in remarks to the Arms Control Association in Washington.

"Whatever it takes to make that argument, and how long it takes to make that argument, the president is committed to do that," she said.

Opponents of the treaty argued in 1999 that a permanent end to testing could erode the reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Some questioned whether cheaters on a test ban treaty could be detected.


The United States has not conducted a nuclear test in nearly 20 years, Tauscher said, and no longer needs to do so, meaning that "we give up nothing by ratifying the CTBT."

Meanwhile, there have been advances in systems that can detect tests that may be conducted by countries hoping to develop nuclear weapons or advance their nuclear capabilities, she said.

"Nowhere would these (treaty) constraints be more relevant than in Asia, where you see states building up and modernizing their forces," Tauscher said. A global ban on testing "would help reduce the chances of a potential regional arms race,' she said.

Support of two-thirds of the Senate is required for ratification of the treaty. After Clinton failed to get the test ban treaty approved, his successor George W. Bush never resubmitted it.

Obama has made clear he sees the test ban treaty as a step toward his vision of a world without nuclear weapons, like the new START arms reduction treaty that the Senate approved last year.

Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat, told the Arms Control Association that he favors the test ban treaty and thought the Senate should act on it before 2012 elections, "but I don't have a high degree of confidence that we will."

Senator Jon Kyl, a Republican who led opposition to the test ban treaty in 1999, told reporters this week that he was still firmly against it. Kyl also voted against the new START, which was approved in December by a vote of 71-26.

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E.  Nuclear Safety

U.S. Nuclear Plants To Step Up Emergency Plans: INPO
Roberta Rampton
(for personal use only)

Some U.S. nuclear plants are not in full compliance with rules set up after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States to respond to explosions and fires, a self-regulatory body for the nuclear industry has found.

The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, or INPO, found issues with where plants store and place equipment, and said plants with more than one reactor need to improve their ability to respond to emergencies affecting all the units, the president of the U.S. nuclear trade group said on Tuesday.

INPO inspected plants after Japan's Fukushima disaster, and found a series of improvements are needed, said Marvin Fertel of the Nuclear Energy Institute.

"These findings already have been entered into corrective action programs to be resolved by those companies," Fertel said. He told reporters he could not provide specific details because he has not seen the data from the review, which he said has not been released publicly.

After the September 11 attacks, U.S. nuclear plants were required to add equipment and train workers for how to handle intentional plane crashes at their sites.

The INPO review also found plants can improve training for staff and improve coordination for first responders and vendors, Fertel said.

The overview of the findings comes as senior staff of the U.S. government's nuclear safety regulator prepare to give their first report on Thursday on possible safety improvements to the nation's 104 plants in the wake of Japan's disaster.

The president of INPO is slated to speak to the Nuclear Energy Assembly conference on Wednesday.


The U.S. nuclear industry had been poised for growth for the first time in more than 30 years before the Fukushima disaster hurt public confidence in the industry.

In February, polls showed more than 70 percent of Americans favored nuclear energy -- a number that since Fukushima has slid to around 50 percent, said Gary Gates, chief executive of Omaha Public Power District.

"People are questioning nuclear power: is it safe enough? Should we build new plants in America? Should we shut down plants we have now?" said Gates, who also chairs the NEI.

Japan's Prime Minister said on Tuesday that his government would review its plans to build new reactors.

But the NEI forecasts the U.S. industry will build four to eight new plants in the 2016-2020 time frame, a projection it has held steady for three years, Fertel said.

Cheap and abundant supplies of natural gas, a competing source of electrical power, have hurt the economics for new nuclear plants, he said.

New plants cost an estimated $8 billion to $10 billion, a capital cost that eclipses the size of many utilities eyeing projects, said John Young, Chief Executive of Energy Future Holdings, a Texas-based power company.

While the Fukushima disaster will prompt changes in the United States, added costs will be "manageable" and won't make existing plants uncompetitive, said James Asselstine, a managing director at Barclays Capital who covers utilities and power companies.

"My suspicion is that the accident in Japan will not be a game-changer for the U.S. nuclear industry," said Asselstine, a former commissioner at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Asselstine said he expects four new plants to be under construction in the next three to five years, noting it takes a decade to develop, plan, license and build a new plant.

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UN Chief Warns Of Big Gaps In World Nuclear Safety
(for personal use only)

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday that the accident at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant suggested that there were large gaps in international systems to deal with safety breaches.

Ban also announced a high-level international meeting on the issue in New York on September 22 during the UN General Assembly session.

"Men and women around the world are asking: are we really doing well and all that we can to safeguard the world's people in the case of nuclear accidents?" Ban said at a UN conference on reducing disaster risk in Geneva.

"Recent events suggest that there are large gaps in how societies and the international system think and act about breaches to nuclear safety," he added during a discussion on preparations for nuclear incidents.

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F.  Nuclear Energy

Mongolia Denies Talks On Taking US, Japan Nuke Waste
Fredrik Dahl
(for personal use only)

Mongolia has not been in talks about importing nuclear waste from other countries, its embassy in Vienna said, after a report that Japan and the United States planned to build a spent nuclear fuel storage facility there.

the country's 2009 nuclear energy law "does not envisage import of nuclear waste from other countries," said a statement from its embassy in the Austrian capital, where the U.N. nuclear agency is based.

The statement, posted on the embassy's website on Tuesday, came after Japanese daily newspaper Mainichi said Japan and the United States planned to jointly build a spent nuclear fuel storage facility in Mongolia. [ID:nL3E7G80HD]

It would serve customers of Japanese and U.S. nuclear plant exporters, the May 9 newspaper report said.

A Trade Ministry official in Tokyo said on Monday that Japanese, U.S. and Mongolian officials, at a meeting shortly before Japan's nuclear crisis erupted in March, informally discussed the possible construction of a nuclear waste storage facility.

He said there were no concrete plans but the ministry would consider such a project if Mongolia were interested.

Mainichi said such a facility would allow Japanese and U.S. nuclear plant exporters, which include joint ventures and units of General Electric (GE.N), Hitachi (6501.T) and Toshiba (6502.T), to better compete with Russian rivals that offer potential customers spent fuel disposal in a package.

"There have not been any talks with foreign organisations or individuals on the issue of accepting nuclear waste of other countries since there are no legal grounds for such talks," said the Mongolian embassy.

It added that Mongolia's legislation regarding its nuclear-weapon-free status "clearly prohibits dumping or disposing of" nuclear waste.

Mongolia plans to have its first nuclear power plant by 2020 and to build nuclear fuel production capacity to tap its rich uranium resources, undeterred by the crisis at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power complex after a March 11 earthquake, a senior official at the state-owned MonAtom LLC said in April.

MonAtom represents the Mongolian government in mining and developing the country's uranium resources.

The embassy said several countries had expressed interest to invest in Mongolia in the area of uranium exploitation.

"Mongolia is prepared to work with other countries within the framework of its national legislation and accepted international norms and standards," it said.

"Since this is a very sensitive issue, it will take time to decide on how to make use of these resources," it said.

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Atomic Energy Society Urges Creation Of Unified Nuclear Regulatory Agency
Ryoko Takeishi
(for personal use only)

All regulations governing nuclear power should be overseen by a single governmental agency, the Atomic Energy Society of Japan proposed May 9.

Currently, responsibility for Japan's nuclear power safety is split among several governmental authorities: the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) under the industry ministry; a nuclear power regulation division under the science ministry; and the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, a committee authorized to guide the related regulations.

The Atomic Energy Society of Japan proposed that all responsibility for nuclear power regulation be unified under the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, which should also be made an independent agency.

The proposal, created from a medium-term perspective, calls for establishing a highly specialized, comprehensive regulation agency similar to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Such an agency would also integrate the roles of the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization, which inspects and evaluates the safety of nuclear power plants, and the Nuclear Material Control Center, which oversees control of radioactive materials.

The report, compiled in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, also raises alarms about the inherent problems arising from the current organizational structure for nuclear-related agencies.

Nuclear power regulator NISA operates under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which also oversees the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy--a group that promotes the nuclear power industry. The two agencies have offices in the same building and often exchange personnel.

Such cozy ties likely led to an unfair balance in favor of nuclear power, some critics charge. Others say the borderline between nuclear regulation and promotion has grown hazy.

The report found the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant was caused mainly by a failure of the plant's electrical power supply. It noted that safety inspections based on a scenario of total power failure at the plant had never been conducted.

The proposal urged a full review of existing guidelines on nuclear power. It also suggested that authorities consider using independent alternative circulating cooling systems for reactors that do not rely on electricity or other power sources to function.

In addition, the proposal recommended setting up terminals and separate cable infrastructures connecting nuclear plants with hydroelectric or other power sources, building coastal levees and making available mobile generator vehicles and other small power generators for emergency power supply at nuclear power plants.

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German Panel To Endorse Closing Nuclear Plants
Ludwig Burger
(for personal use only)

A panel of experts appointed by the German government to advise on its strategy on nuclear power will recommend that the countries' seven oldest reactors be closed indefinitely, a document obtained by Reuters showed.

In a draft of its final report to be released at the end of May, the commission also said that Germany could cope without nuclear power by 2021.

There are alternatives to nuclear power that "all entail fewer risks," the panel said in the draft.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reversed a decision to extend the life of nuclear plants after the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 11 hit Japanese nuclear plants.

She imposed a three-month moratorium on operation of the oldest seven of Germany's 17 nuclear plants, ordered safety checks on all reactors and asked a commission chaired by former environment minister Klaus Toepfer to make recommendations on the industry.

Nuclear power has long been unpopular in Germany and Merkel's decision last year to extend the life of nuclear plants was a major factor in her party losing power after 60 years in a prosperous conservative state in March.

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G.  Links Of Interest

Israel To Spend $2B On Missile Defense
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