1. EU Barroso To Push For Stronger Nuclear Safety Standards At G8
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European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Monday that he will push to strengthen global safety standards for nuclear energy at an upcoming meeting of the Group of Eight leading nations, as European Union countries are still seeking an agreement on how to check the safety of their own nuclear plants.
"We want safe nuclear installations that can resist the toughest tests," Barroso said in a statement. "At this summit I will push for stronger global safety standards, notably through a revision of the Nuclear Safety Convention, for stress tests by our partners and for enhanced global cooperation on nuclear safety."
Barroso said that he is "hopeful" European countries will agree on the criteria for the so-called stress tests, which should, according to him, also check the reactors' resistance to man-made disasters, a key issue that has been the center of controversy among national governments.
Available at: http://www.nasdaq.com/aspx/stock-market-news-story.aspx?storyid=201105231127dowjonesdjonline000197&title=eu-barroso-to-push-foronger-nuclear-safety-standards-at-g8
The issue of nuclear safety is one of the priorities Russia will present at the G8 that starts tomorrow in Deauville, France. The minister at the Russian Embassy in Rome, Dmitry Shtodin, presented to the Italian press today the central issues in Russia's foreign policy, referring to practical proposals concerning atomic energy that President Medvedev will present tomorrow at the meeting of heads of states. . .
Available at: http://www.agi.it/english-version/world/elenco-notizie/201105251618-pol-ren1070-russia_s_g8_priorities_include_nuclear_security
President Dmitry Medvedev has pressed for binding guarantees that a European missile shield would not weaken its nuclear arsenal, saying the system now planned by the United States could threaten Russia's security after 2015.
Days before he meets with President Barack Obama, Medvedev reiterated on Friday his warning of a return to the Cold War if the United States and NATO do not give Russia enough input in the creation of a missile defense system.
"Let us agree now what kind of a system it will be," Medvedev said at an international legal forum in St. Petersburg.
"And if we do not agree, what we will get is Europe in the early 1980s," he added — a time when the standoff between two nuclear armed superpowers clouded the continent. "I don't want to live in that Europe, and I hope you don't either."
Stern remarks by General Nikolai Makarov to foreign military attaches seemed aimed to add to the pressure on the United States and its allies ahead of Medvedev's meetings with Obama and European leaders at a G8 summit in France on May 26.
U.S. assurances that the shield it is planning would not threaten Russia "are so far nothing but groundless declarations," said Makarov, chief of the armed forces General Staff.
As part of a successful push to improve ties with Moscow, Obama scrapped missile defense plans by his predecessor, and in November Medvedev agreed to a NATO offer of cooperation on missile defense.
But the alliance has given the cold shoulder to Medvedev's proposal for a "sectoral" system dividing the continent into Russian and NATO zones of responsibility.
"It's a paradox: We were invited into organizing this, and now that we have agreed, the opposite is happening. We are being told, 'We will do our thing and you do yours,'" Makarov said.
Russian officials have also stepped up criticism of Obama's scaled-back plan for gradual deployment of shorter-range interceptor missiles, based on land and sea, by 2020.
"We will be happy with any option that … does not threaten Russia's nuclear forces," Makarov said. "So far, we see no such option. The ball is in the Americans' court."
Available at: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/medvedev-pushes-us-before-g8/437262.html
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu has called for the resumption of multifaceted talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.
"We (China) believe that dialogue and negotiations are the right way to seek overall, long-lasting and appropriate resolution of Iran's nuclear issue,” Xinhua news agency quoted the spokeswoman as saying at a news briefing in the capital Beijing on Tuesday.
“China hopes Iran could start the next round of talks with the P5+1 and further enhance cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency,” she added.
Iran and the P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the US, and Germany -- held their previous round of comprehensive talks in the Turkish city of Istanbul on January 21 and 22.
The Iranian delegation was headed by Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili, while the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton chaired representatives from the six world powers.
In a press conference following talks, Jalili said Iran is “still prepared for further negotiations with the P5+1, based on common issues.”
“Fuel swap can be the basis for cooperation between nations… and it could be a subject for further negotiations,” Jalili added.
The United States, the Israeli regime and some of their allies accuse Tehran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear program.
Yet, as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the IAEA, Iran has every right to develop and acquire nuclear technology meant for peaceful purposes.
In addition, the IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities but has never found any evidence indicating that Iran's civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.
Available at: http://www.presstv.com/detail/181652.html
A senior Iranian nuclear official on Wednesday dismissed a UN nuclear watchdog's new report on Tehran's atomic drive and its possible military aspects, saying it is based on "unfounded allegations."
"The report brings up repetitive and boring content... based on unfounded allegations and speculation regarding some activities with supposed military objectives," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told the official IRNA news agency.
"The agency's scientific and professional reputation will without a doubt be damaged for dealing with these accusations, failing to provide solid evidence, and seeking political objectives," he said.
The IAEA said on Tuesday that it was assessing new information on "possible undisclosed" military dimensions to the Islamic republic's nuclear activities, elevating concerns about the true nature of Tehran's atomic ambitions.
In a restricted new report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, the agency said there were indications that the alleged work in Iran "may have continued beyond 2004."
A senior international official familiar with the IAEA investigation said the work may even have continued "until rather recently", including in 2010.
Many Western countries fear Iran is seeking to acquire a nuclear military capacity under the guise of its civilian atomic programme, a charge Tehran has repeatedly denied.
The report also said the Islamic republic has continued to amass more low-enriched uranium in defiance of multiple rounds of UN sanctions.
Soltanieh said the report showed Iran was "successfully" pushing forward with its enrichment work.
"It has been clearly noted in the report that our nuclear activities, including enrichment, are being conducted successfully under supervision of the agency," IRNA quoted him as saying.
For years, the IAEA has been investigating Tehran's atomic programme, which has been condemned in six UN Security Council resolutions which include four sets of economic and political sanctions.
The main target of the sanctions is Iran's uranium enrichment programme, which can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the fissile material for an atomic warhead.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gDn2EjfR5Aft7vFUvuJpNTsLuo8g?docId=CNG.57e2385fa5eae620b459b4dacd967745.91
3. Soltanieh: Iran Ready To Export Radioisotope Products
Islamic Republic News Agency
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Iran’s permanent envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali-Asghar Soltanieh said on Wednesday that Iran has informed the IAEA of its readiness to export radioisotope products oversease.
Speaking to IRNA on the sidelines of the International Energy Seminar, Soltanieh said, “In the last year’s conference of the IAEA, we announced that considering its capabiolities in the field of radioisotope technology, Iran is ready to export nuclear products after commissioning of Arak reactor.
'Regarding high potential of the country in production of radioisotope products after commissioning of the 40-megawatt Arak reactor, Iran can put the product at the disposal of other countries through the IAEA. The radioisotope produced in the country is now only for domestic consumption but after putting into operation the Arak reactor, the country can meet the needs of neighboring countries for such material,” Soltanieh said.
Available at: http://www.irna.ir/ENNewsShow.aspx?NID=30403236
Iran's foreign ministry on Tuesday rejected as "illogical" fresh sanctions adopted by the European Union against the Islamic republic over its contentious nuclear programme.
"The move (by the EU) to impose sanctions, which follows certain political objectives, is illogical," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in his weekly news conference.
The EU on Monday tightened its sanctions on Iran, adding more than 100 firms to a blacklist of companies hit by an assets freeze amid efforts to jump start international talks to convince Tehran to halt its nuclear ambitions.
"It is better for the EU to safeguard the interests of its people rather than blindly following the policies of other countries," Mehmanparast said without elaborating.
The European Union and the United States have slapped unilateral sanctions on Iran on top of four sets of punitive measures imposed by the UN Security Council.
The US, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia have engaged in on-and-off talks with Iran over fears it is seeking to acquire a nuclear military capacity under the guise of its civilian atomic programme.
Tehran has repeatedly denied the charges, insisting it is merely trying to meet its people's energy needs.
In a new round of talks in Istanbul in January, Iran said sanctions should be lifted for the resumption of talks.
But after the talks failed, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton sent a letter to Tehran inviting Iranian officials to return to the negotiating table.
Iran responded this month that it is ready for new talks, adding the ball is in the court of the six.
But the response from chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili "sadly just reiterated the old positions of Iran," Ashton said Monday.
"We want them to move forward with the nuclear talks," she said.
In response, Mehmanparast reiterated on Tuesday that Iran was ready for a fresh round of talks.
"We have not received any direct indication that the process (of talks) has reached a dead-end. We hope that talks will continue... we have announced our readiness to engage in negotiations based on mutual interest," he said.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gCVhncp70ZSfsjAVGKz6Wa8gU2QA?docId=CNG.5e70f46848c7eebf13c81854af44b375.341
A team of foreign inspectors due to visit Japan's stricken Fukushima plant began questioning officials Wednesday as part of a fact-finding mission on the world's worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl.
The delegation, including six specialists from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), arrived in Tokyo on Monday on a 10-day visit aimed at learning lessons for the future "on behalf of the world" from the crisis.
"We will come to our best judgement without fear or favour from anybody," mission chief Mike Weightman told reporters after meeting with Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto.
"We are gathering information. We will have more discussions over the weekend" after visiting the Fukushima Daiichi plant, he said.
"Then we will seek to bring all of the information together to see what lessens we can learn on the world basis," he said.
Weightman, chief inspector of nuclear installations in Britain, said the mission would report its findings to an IAEA ministerial-level conference in Vienna in late June.
The 18-member team is made up of experts from 12 countries including the United States, China, Russia and South Korea.
On Friday the team is scheduled to inspect the plant, which was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11 and has leaked high levels of radiation into the environment with meltdowns reported in three reactors.
While in Japan, the experts will also tour a nearby nuclear power plant, Fukushima Daini, and meet officials from various branches of government and the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co.
On June 1, the team will outline a report on the accident to the Japanese government.
Weightman said he was happy so far with the level of cooperation his team had received from Japanese officials.
"We have full cooperation and access to information. Whatever questions we ask, there are answers," he said.
"We will come to our own views on information we seek. We seek to learn lessons on behalf of the world," he said.
Nobuaki Terasaka, chief of the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, pledged steady work to alleviate the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi.
"We are working so that we will be able to move steadily from the current emergency measures to well-planned, stable measures" to cope with the situation, he said during his meeting with the IAEA team earlier in the day.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jUU4uwg03VrUGuP6O_MSia9Cx4rQ?docId=CNG.f35afd4820d245c4cf6bc576e0d51ac3.791
The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said Tuesday that fuel rods inside three of the facility’s reactors likely melted in the days immediately after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Tokyo Electric Power Co said last week that repaired water gauges showed that fuel rods in Unit 1 at the plant had mostly melted and fallen into a lump at the bottom of the pressure vessel - a state that TEPCO officials have described as a meltdown - after the complex’s cooling system was knocked out by the tsunami.
Fresh data from Units 2 and 3 indicate that fuel rods in those reactors are in a similar state, spokeswoman Aya Omura said Tuesday.
In all three reactors, the melted fuel is mostly covered with water and remains at temperatures far below dangerous levels, officials say.
“We have analyzed data, which showed that it was highly likely that most of the fuel rods have melted. But it is unlikely that melting fuel rods could worsen the crisis because the melted fuels are covered in water,” said Takeo Iwamoto, a company spokesman.
TEPCO continues to face obstacles in bringing the radiation-leaking plant under control.
On Monday, officials said temporary containers holding radioactive water pumped from the reactors are almost full, raising concerns they could overflow and leak into the sea again. They said the water could fill the tanks in three days and a system to reprocess the water - now measuring more than 80,000 tons - for reuse in the reactors was not finished.
Fully ridding the plant of the contaminated water - that is pooling in reactor and turbine buildings, trenches and pits - could take through the end of December, TEPCO spokesman Junichi Matsumoto has said. The amount of contaminated water could eventually swell to about 200,000 tons, as TEPCO continues to pump water into the reactors and their spent fuel storage pools to help control temperatures and radiation.
Matsumoto had initially said the storage space could last until the system was ready in mid-June. If the storage containers reach full capacity, the water would have to stay inside the turbine basement areas.
TEPCO has been working with French nuclear engineering giant Areva on a system to reprocess the water so it can then be pumped back into the reactors for cooling.
The operator has also been scrambling bring in additional containers for water that is less radioactive. A giant floating storage tank that can hold about 10,000 tons of water arrived at the plant over the weekend.
TEPCO also maintained its view that it was only after the giant tsunami hit after the devastating March 11 earthquake that the plant lost all its power sources, eventually leading to the loss of the reactors’ key cooling functions.
The company submitted a report on its assessment about the reactors to the government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, industry minister Banri Kaieda said the government agreed at a cabinet meeting Tuesday to set up a third-party panel to look into the causes of the country’s worst ever nuclear crisis.
The government has tapped Yotaro Hatamura, a 70-year-old professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, as head of the special panel, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said in a press conference.
Yotaro Hatamura, a veteran researcher on human errors, will head the panel which has power to access accident-related documents and question people concerned including officials of the plant operator, Cabinet members and bureaucrats, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku told a news conference.
Hatamura, 70, an emeritus professor at the University of Tokyo, and the other members, mostly academics, plan to compile a mid-term report on the matters in December and a final report will be due by summer 2012, government officials said.
The panel is also designed to make recommendations to ease the impact of the nuclear accident on residents who were forced to evacuate from their homes near the plant following the nuclear emergency.
Available at: http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/fukushima-plants-nos-2-3-reactors-also-suffered-meltdown-tepco
1. IAEA Reports Syria 'Very Likely' Built Nuclear Facility With North Korea's Assistance
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The International Atomic Energy Agency reports that Syria was 'very likely' building a secret nuclear facility with North Korean assistance.
The BBC reports that a confidential IAEA report stated that the reactor located at Dair Alzour resembled those of North Korea. The building was bombed back in 2007 when Israel suspected the remote desert site to be housing a nuclear reactor.
Syria denied the charges claiming that the area in the north-east of that country was an unused military facility. North Korea also denied its involvement. Observers say the findings will increase pressure on the Syrian regime which faces sanctions by the European Union over its crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Available at: http://www.arirang.co.kr/News/News_View.asp?nseq=116314&code=Ne2&category=2
1. India Concerned For Safety Of Pakistan Nuclear Weapons
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India is concerned about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal after a group of militants laid siege to a heavily guarded naval air base, the defense minister said Wednesday.
"Naturally it is a concern not only for us but for everybody," A.K. Antony was quoted by Press Trust of India as saying when asked about concern for the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal in light of the attack.
"Our services are taking all precautions and are ready round-the-clock. But at the same time we don't want to over-react," he said.
Sunday's attack by as few as six Taliban militants on the PNS Mehran base in Karachi has raised fresh worry about the safety of Pakistan's 70-100 nuclear weapons, and some analysts see it as a blueprint for a raid on a nuclear base.
Some security officials have said the attack may have been an inside job, spotlighting militant sympathizers within the ranks of Pakistan's military.
Tension between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan have mounted since the U.S. operation to find and kill Osama bin Laden. Islamabad and New Delhi have traded barbs about each country's readiness to take on an attack from a neighbor or launch one.
The neighbors have fought three wars since 1947.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/25/us-india-pakistan-nuclear-idUSTRE74O2I320110525
The head of NATO said on Tuesday he was confident Pakistan's nuclear weapons were safe, but admitted it was a matter of concern, the day after the worst assault on a Pakistani military base in two years.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen was in Afghanistan on a one-day visit and met President Hamid Karzai to discuss the transition of security from NATO-led troops to Afghan security forces, which is due to begin in July.
Rasmussen was asked if NATO was concerned about Pakistan's nuclear weapons after it took Pakistani forces 17 hours to reclaim control of a naval air base from Taliban attackers and following the death of Osama bin Laden.
"I feel confident that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is safe and well protected," said Rasmussen. "But of course it is a matter of concern and we follow the situation closely."
The attack in Karachi, the worst on a base since the army headquarters was besieged in October 2009, piled further embarrassment on Pakistan three weeks after the Al-Qaeda leader was found living in the city of Abbottabad, close to the country's military academy.
Rasmussen was scheduled to wind up his Afghan visit on Tuesday after spending a night and a full day in Afghanistan.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hFOHNVAixhLp0OZFhV5YtANR9Ahg?docId=CNG.70d06a6c49b3b0a2f5170461c7277a26.161
1. EU Finalises "Stress Tests" For Nuclear Reactors
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European nuclear watchdogs have agreed details of new safety checks on the region's 143 reactors and said a group would be set up to deal with the risks of a nuclear crisis arising from a terrorist attack.
By June 1, regulators will have to start checking power plants' resilience to earthquakes and tsunamis to avert any crisis like that at Japan's stricken Fukushima plant, the European Commission said on Wednesday.
The tests, which follow two months of dispute, will also address the ability of reactors to withstand more common threats such as forest fires, transport accidents and the loss of electrical power supplies.
"We've come up with very comprehensive testing criteria," EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told reporters.
"At the European-level, we'll be inspecting the inspectors," he said. "Human error has played a role in the Fukushima accident, so therefore we felt human error and human action had to be part of the stress test."
Officials say that in Europe the most significant threat to reactors comes from terrorism, but Oettinger said that was best handled by national security agencies.
"I respect that some member states say they don't want to show their cards -- that could even abet terrorism," Oettinger told German radio station Deutschlandfunk.
He now plans to prod Europe's neighbours, Russia, Ukraine and Switzerland, to follow suit. Europe's divisions over nuclear power have deepened since Fukushima, with Britain and France remaining steadfast supporters, Italy shelving plans to build new plants and Germany taking steps towards a phase-out.
The Swiss government agreed a gradual phase-out of nuclear energy on Wednesday.
A fundamental shift in energy strategy is under way.
Germany's suspension of its oldest seven plants has already increased demand for coal, and analysts predict an increase in long-term European gas demand.
"The role of nuke power will suffer a setback," Paolo Scaroni, the chief executive of Italian energy giant Eni (ENI.MI), told reporters. "There are several reasons to think the gas market will tighten again."
Austria, a vocal opponent which banned new plants in 1974, said all its main demands had been met.
"This really was a tough fight," Austrian Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich told Austrian radio. "I welcome that a nuclear safety system is being set up for the first time at the European level. The nuclear lobby resisted it, of course."
While the stress tests will have no legal teeth, they will be reviewed by other national regulators and the details will be made public. That means any plant that fails will come under ever more intense pressure from the anti-nuclear lobby.
"In case an upgrade is not technically or economically feasible, we believe reactors shall be shut down and decommissioned," the European Commission said in a statement.
"A government has to explain to its public why it has taken a decision, or failed to act."
This could put particular pressure on plants without containment structures for reactors or fuel pools, or those that face seismic threats.
That might put the spotlight on Britain's gas-cooled Magnox reactors, Russian-made units in Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic, and old boiling-water reactors in Germany, Spain, Sweden and Finland.
Green group politician Rebecca Harms challenged governments to take the threat of terrorism seriously.
"The proposed working group... smacks of being a face-saving exercise, which will fail to actually test the ability of key sites in Europe to withstand an attack, like a plane crash -- which it is widely known they cannot," she said.
Austria convened a meeting in Vienna on Wednesday, which it said was attended by 11 anti-nuclear countries including Denmark and Ireland.
Environment minister Berlakovich said he would like to "expand the family" to include countries like Poland and Italy that were still undecided.
But he played down the speed of change: "Anyone who says Europe will be free of nuclear power at the push of a button is a charlatan."
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/05/25/eu-nuclear-idUKLDE74O0FJ20110525
2. U.K. May Use Green Investment Bank To Fund Expanions Of Nuclear Program
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Britain may use the Green Investment Bank it plans to open in April 2012 to help fund nuclear power plants as it encourages consumption of more low-carbon fuels.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said nuclear power investments are under a “high level appraisal” along with offshore wind, carbon capture plants, marine energy and electric vehicle charging stations. The department disclosed arrangements for the bank that ministers are considering in a document released yesterday.
Business Secretary Vince Cable told reporters in London that while nuclear technology didn’t meet the criteria for the first round of investments, “we also make it very clear we don’t rule sectors out.”
The U.K. government estimates it needs 200 billion pounds ($320 billion) to replace its aging power stations. It gets about a fifth of its electricity from nuclear plants and must replace all but one of them within the two decades.
Nuclear power, which Cable’s Liberal Democrat Party opposed before it joined Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative-led coalition government last year, would need a large amount of financial support, according to the report.
The timing of that investment was “far away,” and the relevance of financial solutions the bank could deploy was “low,” the government said in its report. The government plans reactors with capacity totaling 18 gigawatts by 2025.
Due to their long lead times, only about 6 gigawatts of new projects could be installed by 2020, requiring a minimum investment of about 17 billion pounds ($27.5 billion), according to the report.
Cameron is depending on replacing a generation of aging nuclear power plants with new reactors and expanding renewable energy sources to meet goals on curbing greenhouse gas emissions. This month, the government’s climate advisory panel said investment in offshore wind turbines should be slowed while more nuclear stations are built.
The initial focus of the bank’s investments would be on industrial energy efficiency, waste and offshore wind and “high risk” projects that wouldn’t get funding from traditional sources, Cable said.
“A wider range of energy and other activities could become relevant over time,” he said.
The government is trying to deliver on a pledge to make the administration the “greenest” in U.K. history while eliminating the budget deficit by 2015, the deadline for the next election. It’s funding the bank with 3 billion pounds from asset sales underwritten by the Treasury that could catalyze a further 15 billion pounds from investors by 2015.
Cable said he was setting up an advisory group for the bank to help establish the institution and its strategic direction. Adrian Montague, the chairman of 3I Group Plc (III), who held the same post at nuclear operator British Energy Group Plc until 2009, was appointed as chairman for the group.
The Business Department will start to make investments in clean energy projects by April and will transfer them to the Green Investment Bank once the institution is functioning and the European Union has verified that the program complies with state aid rules, Cable said.
Those investments could come in the form of equity, subordinated debt or senior debt. From April 2015, the bank will be able to borrow on its own against the credit of the government if the national debt is declining as a percentage of the economy. The bank may issue “green bonds,” he said.
The bank will employ 50 to 100 people and be based in Bristol, London or Edinburgh.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-24/u-k-green-investment-bank-may-employ-100-people-minister-says.html
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