A senior Iranian lawmaker says the Islamic Republic has always pursued its civilian nuclear program with full transparency and has resolved any ambiguities about the issue.
In a Tuesday meeting with Director General of the Middle East and North Africa Department of Swedish Foreign Ministry Robert Rydberg in Tehran, Rapporteur of Iran's Majlis (parliament) Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy Kazem Jalali said that Iran's peaceful nuclear activities are completely within the framework of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the country's nuclear facilities are regularly inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), IRNA reported.
He noted that the Islamic Republic of Iran has adequately responded to all questions about its nuclear program. However, certain countries are seeking to impede Iran's growing scientific and nuclear progress through a negative media campaign.
The United States, the Israeli regime and a number of their Western allies have accused Tehran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear program.
Yet, as a signatory to the NPT and a member of the IAEA, Iran maintains that it 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 towards a military objective.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/182691.html
Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi says Bushehr power plant, the country's first nuclear power plant, will go on stream on schedule.
“The plant will officially go on stream on schedule and in the presence of certain foreign visitors,” Salehi told reporters on Tuesday on the sidelines of an international conference in the Iranian capital of Tehran, IRNA reported.
He said that the plant will gradually reach the stage of steam generation and added, “We hope that within the next month its steam power will reach a level so that it will be fed through the turbine in order to produce electricity.”
Salehi pointed out that the plant will be connected to the grid for several times on a test run before it actually joins the national grid.
Earlier this month, Salehi said the plant had reached the criticality stage, which allows the atoms to split by themselves in a chain reaction without interference from operators.
“This stage lasts for two months. We hope the plant will gain some 40 percent of its power within the next one to two months,” he went on to say.
In October 2010, Iran started injecting fuel into the core of the reactor at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in the initial phase of its launch. However, engineers began removing the fuel rods in late February for safety reasons.
The unloading of the fuel delayed the plant's joining the national grid, initially scheduled for the beginning of 2011.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/182533.html
Abandoning its months-long reconciliatory gesture, North Korea threatened this week to cut off a military hotline with South Korea, a change analysts say might affect the overall mood concerning the resumption of multinational nuclear disarmament talks.
On Monday, just three days after Kim Jong-il reportedly returned home after meeting with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao in Beijing, North Korea said it will suspend the eastern border communication channel and warned of “physical actions” over Seoul’s propaganda campaign near their heavily fortified border.
The moves of Seoul’s Lee Myung-bak government against the North “have reached an extreme phase,” Pyongyang’s National Defense Commission said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
The South Korean government has been downplaying the meaning of Pyongyang’s changed attitude on the surface.
“This isn’t the first time for North Korea to apply pressure while, at the same time, saying it wants to talk,” said Lee Jong-joo, the vice-spokesperson of Seoul’s Unification Ministry.
Suspension of the eastern border military hotline will not cause a severe impact on overall inter-Korean communication as other hotlines remain open, the ministry, which handles affairs with Pyongyang, has also said.
On Wednesday, a South Korean media outlet also reported that the eastern border communication line “had already been down” since a nearby forest fire in December, citing unnamed government sources.
All communications have been made via the western border hotline since then, the sources said.
The timing of the warning, however, is “worth attention,” another ministry official said.
“If North Korea’s warning had anything to do with the summit with China, this might mean a permanent change in position that will influence the overall mood for the resumption of the denuclearization talks as well as inter-Korean dialogue,” the official said, asking not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Suffering from deepening food shortages and international isolation, North Korea has been making escalating appeals to restart the multinational denuclearization talks it walked from at the end of 2008. The six-nation talks, involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, the U.S. and Russia, had been one of Pyongyang’s sources of food.
As North Korea’s last-remaining benefactor and ally, China has been keen to have the talks resume by first getting nuclear experts of the two Koreas meet and mend ties. The North’s Kim reportedly proposed summit talks with Seoul’s Lee in late April.
South Korea, however, has been unmoving toward Pyongyang’s appeals, demanding an apology for the two deadly attacks last year that killed 50 people.
The conservative Lee government in the South has also been reluctant to send food to Pyongyang, dubious about the actual food conditions there and which sector is really getting the donated food.
“With China backing it financially and the U.S. considering resumption of aid, North Korea could turn tough and blame everything on the Lee government,” Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korean expert at Seoul’s Dongguk University said.
Although reports vary over the outcome of North Korean leader Kim’s summit with Hu in China last week, the trip was clearly made for financial purposes focused on Pyongyang-Beijing joint economic projects and food assistance.
Hong Hyun-ik, a researcher at the state-run Sejong Institute, expressed similar views in a recent newspaper column.
“With confidence that China will continue to back it up, North Korea may no longer feel the need to make up with the South,” he said. “And China cannot go on asking the North to make effort when South Korea is so reluctant to mend ties.”
Seoul may have to take a diplomatic approach toward Pyongyang so as not to lose the initiative to other regional powers in the nuclear disarmament talks, the expert added.
“If Washington decides to resume the stalled food aid to the North, dialogue partners may move to resume the six-party talks regardless of our position,” he said. “To avoid this, our government needs to separate the nuclear issue with inter-Korean ties in a diplomatic and practical decision.”
A U.S. fact-finding team which has been in North Korea to examine the food conditions there discussed “monitoring terms necessary to ensure that aid would reach those for whom it’s intended,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a press briefing Wednesday.
Robert King, special envoy for North Korean human rights, led a team of officials and experts to Pyongyang last week, a move analysts say may lead to Washington’s resumption of aid to the impoverished nation.
The final decision will be made after the team presents a full report, Toner said.
“Obviously we have to wait for the food assessment team to get back, and then we’ll look at (that information), and we’ll compare it to the other data that we have, before a decision’s made,” he said.
Available at: http://www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20110601000785
2. South Korea Renews Invitation To Kim Jong-il To Join Nuclear Summit
Yonhap News Agency
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Despite North Korea's apparent refusal, South Korea's foreign minister renewed his country's invitation on Wednesday to Pyongyang's reclusive leader Kim Jong-il to join dozens of state heads at a nuclear summit in Seoul next year.
Speaking in a seminar on the summit set to be held next March, Kim Sung-hwan expressed hope that the North could take advantage of the meeting set to draw about 50 leaders from around the world to break its isolation and achieve denuclearization.
The North has essentially dismissed the proposal that South Korean President Lee Myung-bak made last month in Berlin. The North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, a semi-official organ on cross-border relations, has said the idea of South Korea holding a nuclear summit is "ridiculous," accusing Seoul of hosting U.S. forces holding a stash of nuclear arms.
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against the North, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a truce. The U.S. military denies it is hiding any nuclear arms in the South.
The nuclear summit scheduled for next year in Seoul will be one of the largest international gatherings to be hosted by Lee during his five-year tenure that ends in 2013. During the past three years, inter-Korean relations plunged after the impoverished North refused to sympathize with Lee's call that Pyongyang show clear denuclearization steps for aid from the South.
All forms of cross-border dialogue remain suspended, and South Korea and the U.S. say Pyongyang should also retract its newly unveiled uranium enrichment project if it wants to see the reopening of six-nation talks designed to provide political and economic benefits to the North in exchange for denuclearization.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2011/06/01/77/0301000000AEN20110601002900315F.HTML
Japan underestimated the hazard posed by tsunamis to nuclear plants, the UN atomic watchdog said, while praising Tokyo's response to the March 11 disaster as "exemplary".
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Wednesday also stressed the importance of "regulatory independence and clarity of roles", touching on the fact that Japan's nuclear watchdog is part of the ministry of trade and industry, which promotes atomic power.
Japan's magnitude 9.0 seabed quake and tsunami caused the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years ago at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which has since leaked radiation into the air, ground and sea.
The IAEA sent an 18-member team of its own experts and specialists from 12 countries, including the United States, China, Russia and South Korea, on a fact-finding mission to Japan.
"The tsunami hazard for several sites was underestimated," said the IAEA team in the preliminary report it handed to Japan's centre-left government, ahead of a full report to be presented in Vienna later this month.
"Nuclear designers and operators should appropriately evaluate and protect against the risks of all natural hazards, and should periodically update those assessments and assessment methodologies," it said.
The 14-metre (45-foot) wave that slammed into the plant knocked out reactor cooling systems and backup power generators, causing partial reactor meltdowns and forcing emergency crews to douse reactors with water since then.
The embattled operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has said it hopes to bring the plant to a stable state of "cold shutdown", with low pressure and temperatures, some time between October and January.
The IAEA report on lessons learnt from the disaster said that nuclear plants should be designed to withstand "extreme external events, particularly those with common mode implications such as extreme floods".
"Severe long term combinations of external events should be adequately covered in design, operations, resourcing and emergency arrangements," it said.
The IAEA report summary also said that at nuclear plants "simple effective robust equipment should be available to restore essential safety functions in a timely way for severe accident conditions".
The team, which visited three nuclear plants, said Japan's government, plant operators and agencies had been "extremely open in sharing information" and praised the country's initial response to the disaster.
"The response on the site by dedicated, determined and expert staff, under extremely arduous conditions has been exemplary and resulted in the best approach to securing safety given the exceptional circumstances," it said.
"The Japanese government?s longer term response to protect the public, including evacuation, has been impressive and extremely well organised."
Japan has evacuated tens of thousands of people from a 20 kilometre (12 mile) zone around the stricken plant, and from some areas beyond which have received high doses of aerial radiation.
The IAEA said that "a suitable and timely follow-up programme on public and worker exposures and health monitoring would be beneficial."
The IAEA team, led by Britain's chief inspector of nuclear installations Mike Weightman, will present its full report at a ministerial meeting on nuclear safety at IAEA headquarters in Vienna from June 20 to 24.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iuTRMDEJRz--IfEm_cg_iFlvNQGg?docId=CNG.9e4977e7a1dedbfd01785d2d4b7cb668.791
2. Nuclear Crisis Could Cost Japan Up To Y20 Tril Over 10 Years: Study
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The cost of scrapping the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami as well as compensating evacuees could total up to 20 trillion yen over the next decade, according to an estimate by a research institute presented to a government meeting Tuesday.
The Japan Center for Economic Research, a private think tank, estimated that scrapping all six reactors at the Fukushima complex could cost up to 15 trillion yen, while compensating people who have been evacuated from areas located within 20 kilometers from the plant could reach around 630 billion yen.
The government may also be forced to buy up land contaminated with radioactive substances located within a 20-kilometer radius of the power station, costing an additional 4.3 trillion yen, Kazumasa Iwata, president of the institute, said at the meeting of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission.
Available at: http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/nuclear-crisis-could-cost-japan-up-to-y20-tril-over-10-years-study
3. Oil Spill, Explosion Causes Minor Damage At Fukushima Plant
Xinhua News Agency
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An oil spill and a small explosion have caused minor damage at Japan's crippled nuclear power plant. Officials from Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency say workers at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant found an oil spill in the sea near reactors five and six, which were shutdown when the earthquake and tsunami struck on March 11th.
He said an oil fence was being deployed to contain the leak and that officials were checking the amount and scale of the spill and if the oil is radioactive. Meanwhile the Tokyo Electric Power Company says an explosion workers heard at reactor four was likely from a gas tank and did not cause any additional radiation leaks. The cause is being investigated. TEPCO has promised to bring the plant under control by January but fears are growing the timeline is too optimistic.
He said, "It was originally just heavy oil and did not have any radioactivity. But it could have picked up some radioactive material in the air while being drained. But, I don't think it was very contaminated."
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/video/2011-06/01/c_13905572.htm
1. Leading Physicist Calls China's Nuclear Programme 'Rash And Unsafe'
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As other countries scale back their reliance on nuclear power, China is dramatically ramping up its plans, allocating $120 billion to roll out more than 50 nuclear power stations and increase its nuclear capacity from 9GW to 400GW.
The government has pledged to stick to the plan even after the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan underlined the risks of nuclear power.
However, Professor He Zuoxiu, one of the mainland's leading theoretical physicists, has warned that China is "seriously unprepared, especially on the safety front" for the rapid expansion.
Mr He compared the plan to Chairman Mao's Great Leap Forward, a period at the end of the 1950s when plans to industrialise and collectivise the Chinese economy led to disaster and mass famine.
"Of course it is just like the Great Leap Forward," he said. "It's all about giddy speed and zero preparation. We have not solved the problems of technology, cost or safety but rashly rushed out an over-ambitious plan. I think it is a mission impossible." In an article for Science Times, a Chinese journal, Mr He also questioned whether the government's calculations about the cost of nuclear power were accurate. "China is not rich in uranium resources," he said. "How much can we import from abroad? And would it not be more difficult than importing oil and gas?"
He also remarked that large swathes of China are earthquake zones and the cost of improving the safety of nuclear power stations in these areas would make them uneconomical.
Mr He said that while he has been attacked for his views, "most people I know in the nuclear energy industry more or less agree with me, or do not have adequate answers to my questions."
A researcher with China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group told the South China Morning Post that Mr He's article had sent a shock through the industry, as the first influential scientist to challenge the government line.
"He knows where our weaknesses lie. The quake resistance level, for instance, is still under fierce debate in the industry, because it will have a huge impact on the cost of future nuclear projects," the researcher said.
"I basically agree with Mr He," said Wu Libo, the deputy director of the Energy Economics and Strategy Research Centre at Shanghai's Fudan University.
"Ever since the start of the current nuclear energy development plan, we have been very optimistic and positive about the prospects for nuclear energy and its safety. But the leaks in Fukushima should be a warning. We really should be more strict in evaluating our nuclear investments and be really careful about any project that could have an effect on public security."
Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/8549384/Leading-physicist-calls-Chinas-nuclear-programme-rash-and-unsafe.html
2. Saudi Plans To Build 16 Nuclear Reactors By 2030
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Saudi Arabia plans to build 16 nuclear power reactors by 2030 which could costs more than $100 billion, a Saudi-based newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing a top official.
The world's top crude exporter, Saudi is struggling to keep up with rapidly rising power demand. It has considered boosting its domestic energy capacity using nuclear reactors.
"After 10 years we will have the first two reactors," Abdul Ghani bin Melaibari, coordinator of scientific collaboration at King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, told Arab News.
Many have backed away from atomic plans after the accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant but oil-rich Gulf states are among the few countries looking to make major investments in nuclear power plants.
"After that, every year we will establish two, until we have 16 of them by 2030," he said.
He estimated the cost of each reactor to be around $7 billion, adding that the Kingdom is in the process of planning for the nuclear project and coordination with specialized companies.
The kingdom plans to cover 20 percent of its electricity needs using nuclear energy, said Melaibari.
Power demand in the top oil exporter is estimated to grow 7-8 percent during the next 10 years.
Neighbouring United Arab Emirates in December 2009 awarded a South Korean consortium the contract to build four nuclear power plants worth
Available at: http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFLDE75004Q20110601
3. Stress-Testing Of Power Stations Begins In Europe
Voice of Russia
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The EU is starting a series of stress testing of existing nuclear power stations and new ones under construction in Europe. The testing will be in three stages with the participation of operators of power stations, national atomic agencies and experts from the Euro-commission. The experts will get results of the analyses only on paper, as outsiders are not allowed access to strategic facilities. Natalya Kovalenko has prepared the following piece.
The decision for a stress-testing was taken following the serious accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, which has scarred the whole world. Germany has decided to shut down all its nuclear plants by 2022, and to switch to the use of a more environmentally friendly energy. A reaction by the leaders of the EU was expected under the circumstances, says Vladimir Averchev, a member of the Russian Foreign and Defense Council:
“A stress-test should be seen as a political step, aimed at showing the concerns of leaders of the EU about the situation and nothing more”, Averchev said. “The test will not reveal anything new that is not already known about nuclear energy technology by countries working to develop it. For most of them, there is no serious alternative to nuclear energy in the near future, and hence the issue is how to make nuclear energy safer and more reliable. From this point of view, the stress-test on a computer amounts to a desire to console and reassure the public in Europe”, Averchev said.
The denial of access to nuclear plants by independent experts and the point that the problems inside nuclear plants will only be simulated and not demonstrated on the field raise questions among foreign experts. This method has several shortcomings. Despite the acknowledged advances in computer technology, there are problems which can be discovered only during practical testing, says Sergei Novikov of Rosatom Corporation:
“The strange thing at the Fukushima-1 plant was that there were reserved cables but unsuitable sockets. Under the emergency situation, the Japanese specialists acted according to the instructions and didn’t try to use the available materials but waited for the arrival of the right ones. Russian specialists would have cut the available cables and forced them into the sockets. An emergency situation requires an unconventional approach to the solution of problems”, Novikov said.
Paper calculations are inevitable. Most of the stations were constructed over 40 years ago, and there have been many changes, including threats by man and natural disasters. The designers of Fukushima-1 plant failed to take into account the power of tsunami, perhaps they did not believe that waves triggered by the tsunami can reach a height of 15 meters. Their calculations showed a height of 7-8 meters.
There are now new parameters for levels of flood, hurricane, lashing waves, planes crashing into stations and several other emergency situations In April, Russia carried out tests on the basis of the new parameters in the presence of foreign experts led by the Director of the French: Electricite de France, the operator of the largest number of Atomic Energy Stations in Europe.
Japan is to submit a report on the accident at its Fukushima plant at an IAEA conference in Vienna on June 20. EU experts will report on the stress-testing, while Russia will compare the EU requirements on nuclear facilities with those which members of the Union are operating under. A common system for the use of nuclear power plants under the supervision of the IAEA is expected to be worked out in Vienna.
Available at: http://english.ruvr.ru/2011/06/01/51134790.html
4. Austria To Halt Imports Of Nuclear Energy By 2015
Xinhua News Agency
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The Austrian government has decided to halt its imports of nuclear energy by 2015, Austrian Press Agency reported on Tuesday.
Currently, the share of nuclear energy in the total electricity imports of Austria amounted to an average of some 6 percent.
Austrian Environmental Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner Tuesday said that the share of nuclear energy imports would be substituted by expanding the renewable energy and the increase of investment in hydropower.
With the help of new Green Electricity Act, he was convinced of "relatively quick" transfer to nuclear-free electricity supply.
Renewable energy such as biomass, wind power, photovoltaic and hydropower will be further strengthened. Alone for hydroelectric power, a total investment of 2 billion euros (about 2.87 billion U.S. dollars) was planned for the next two years.
In addition to increased financial input, one third of measures aiming to promote the self sufficiency of Austrian electricity supply are to increase energy efficiency. In the calculations, a rise of 1.5 percent in electricity consumption was taken into account.
The feral government also set of the goal of becoming electricity exporter by 2050. Mitterlehner evaluated this target as "very ambitious but achievable."
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-05/31/c_13903988.htm
5. German Nuclear Exit Sparks E.ON Legal Challenge
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E.ON, Germany's largest utility, is to sue the government for billions of euros in damages arising from the decision to abandon nuclear power within the next decade.
"The company expects adequate compensation for damages related to these decisions amounting to billions of euros," E.ON said on Tuesday.
An E.ON spokesman said shortening the lifespan of nuclear power plants and charging a tax on nuclear fuel was unlawful in itself and also violated European Union law that forbids discrimination against nuclear power.
The spokesman said the damages would be in the low double-digit billions of euros.
The German Finance Ministry said it would not comment on E.ON's decision.
Peer RWE, Germany's largest power producer, said on Monday it, too, was considering a legal challenge.
After weekend protests against nuclear power drew more than 150,000 people in cities such as Berlin and Munich, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition announced on Monday the decision to shut all nuclear reactors by 2022, in a hasty policy reversal drawn up after the disaster at the Fukushima reactor in Japan.
That will cost power producers E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall's German unit dear.
DZ Bank analyst Marc Nettelbeck estimates that E.ON, Germany's largest utility, will forego as much as 600 million euros ($857 million) in earnings before interest and taxes this year, and RWE, the country's largest power producer, as much as 575 million euros.
That amounts to 9 percent of RWE's forecast 2011 earnings, while E.ON does not forecast its earnings.
Provisions will rise, as utilities have to accumulate the funds for decommissioning the nuclear power plants during the plants' lifetime -- and as that time is shorter, they will have to put more aside annually.
E.ON Chief Financial Officer Marcus Schenck has previously said that an early closure would cost between 100 million euros and 1 billion euros for each nuclear power plant.
The decision to shut all nuclear power plants by 2022 also gives more weight to renewable energy sources as it eliminates a competing energy source that is almost carbon free.
Renewable stocks have risen as a consequence of the government decision. The FTSE cleantech index of the world's 50 largest renewable companies is up 2 percent since the beginning of the week.
Gains are based on the impression that the emphasis on carbon-free power and the lack of one major energy source, which supplies about a fourth of Germany's power, has to lead to more investment in renewable energy.
"The decision to phase out nuclear should be positive for the short-term performance of solar stocks ... especially as Germany has always been a major market for their products," said Societe Generale analyst Didier Laurens.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/31/us-utilities-renewables-idUSTRE74U44820110531?rpc=401&feedType=RSS&feedName=GCA-GreenBusiness&rpc=401
Atomic energy is a good form of energy and solutions might be found to improve its safety, former Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien said Tuesday.
Chretien said Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster led to the issue being raised at the 29th annual meeting of the InterAction Council that wrapped up Tuesday in Quebec City.
The forum brought together former heads of state, who included former U.S. president Bill Clinton and former Mexican presidents Vicente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon.
Chretien said the group of 20 former leaders addressed concerns that arose after the nuclear disaster in Japan, but stressed they didn't push for more countries to follow Germany's decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022.
"It's an ongoing debate," he said.
"It's a political problem in Germany and I understand it's difficult to manage this file there."
Chretien stressed that atomic energy is a "good energy" and that many countries have turned to it in order to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
"It's a non-polluting energy, but on the other hand, it produces waste for thousands of years and it's dangerous if it's not well managed," Chretien said.
"These are serious problems and I think we can find technical solutions to them."
He noted that atomic energy is "secure" since there have only been "two or three" major nuclear crises in the past 50 years.
"But the dangers are enormous," he said, adding there might be ways to improve safety.
Chretien, who was energy minister under Pierre Elliott Trudeau from 1982 to 1984, stressed nuclear energy is safely produced in Canada.
"I think the Canadian system is safe and one advantage is we don't need enriched uranium," he said.
Available at: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Jean+Chretien+backs+nuclear+energy/4869844/story.html
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