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Nuclear News - 6/30/2011
PGS Nuclear News, June 30, 2011
Compiled By: Eli Ginsberg

A.  Iran
    1. Iran Secretly Tested 'Nuclear-Capable Missiles', Agence France-Presse (6/29/2011)
    2. Iran Raps Israel Nuclear Weapons Policy, PressTV (6/28/2011)
    3. Iran Blasts US, Allies on WMD Arsenal, PressTV (6/28/2011)
    1. North Korea Threatens to Attack South Korea, Associated Press (6/29/2011)
    2. North Korea, Russia Abandon Plans for Kim Meeting, Denis Dyomkin, Reuters (6/29/2011)
C.  Japan
    1. TEPCO Ready to Give Crucial Water Cleaning Another Go, Asahi (6/29/2011)
    2. Atomic Power to Stay, Kepco Tells Investors, Eric Johnston, Japan Times (6/29/2011)
    3. Tepco, Chubu Rally Around Japan Nuclear Future, Defying Growing Opposition, Yuji Okada and Shigeru Sato, Bloomberg (6/29/2011)
    4. Radioactive Water Leaks from Japan's Damaged Plant, Shinichi Saoshiro and Yoko Kubota, Reuters (6/28/2011)
D.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Saudi, Argentina Sign Nuclear Cooperation Deal, The Daily Star (6/29/2011)
    2. BKW-Muehleberg Nuclear Plant to Close Until Sept, Silke Koltrowitz, Reuters (6/29/2011)
    3. Sarkozy Bucks Europe's Anti-Nuke Trend, UPI (6/29/2011)
    4. Poland Nuclear Plant Bill Passed by Parliament, Reuters (6/29/2011)
    5. West Queries China over Pakistan Atom Ties, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (6/29/2011)
    6. Nuclear Energy Institute Spent $545k Lobbying, Bloomberg (6/28/2011)
E.  Nuclear Safety
    1. Russia Has 'No plans' to Undergo EU Nuclear Stress Tests: Rosatom, Platts (6/28/2011)
F.  Nuclear Security
    1. Six Uranium Traffickers Arrested in Moldova, Agence France-Presse (6/29/2011)

A.  Iran

Iran Secretly Tested 'Nuclear-Capable Missiles'
Agence France-Presse
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Iran has carried out secret tests of ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload in breach of UN resolutions, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Wednesday.

Hague's comments came a day after Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards said they had fired 14 missiles in an exercise, one of them a medium-range weapon capable of striking Israel or US targets in the Gulf.

In a statement to lawmakers, Hague said: "Iran has also been carrying out covert ballistic missile tests and rocket launches, including testing missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload in contravention of UN resolution 1929."

He said Iran had also announced plans to triple its capacity to produce 20 percent enriched uranium, adding: "These are enrichment levels far greater than is needed for peaceful nuclear energy.

"We will maintain and continue to increase pressure on Iran to negotiate an agreement on their nuclear programme," including sanctions, he said.

There was no immediate reaction from Tehran, which denies Western claims that it is pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of its civil atomic programme.

On Tuesday Iranian state media said the Revolutionary Guards fired nine Zelzal missiles, two Shahab-1s, two Shahab-2s and a single medium-range Ghadr on the second day of their Great Prophet-6 exercise.

On the first day of the exercise on Monday, the Guards unveiled an "underground missile silo" which they said was designed for launching their medium-range missiles, state television reported.

The Guards' aerospace commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh insisted Iran's missile programme posed no threat to European nations but was intended to provide defence against

"US targets in the region and the Zionist regime."

Iran has said that its latest exercise is not aimed at any country but carries "a message of peace and friendship."

On Tuesday US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Iran was "bragging" about its assets, but did not specify whether Washington thought the tested missiles were nuclear-capable.

Iran's missile programme, which is under the control of the powerful Guards along with its space projects, has been a mounting source of concern in the West.
Western governments fear Tehran is seeking to develop a ballistic capability to enable it to launch atomic warheads under cover of its civil nuclear programme.

Hague meanwhile reiterated accusations that Iran was backing the violent suppression of pro-democracy protests in neighbouring Syria.

Earlier this month the British envoy in Tehran was summoned to the foreign ministry over the claims.

"Iran continues to connive in the suppression of legitimate protest in Syria and to suppress protests at home," Hague said.

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Iran Blasts US, Allies on WMD Arsenal
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Iran has blasted the US and its allies for continued production of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), vowing its own commitment to the global fight against chemical weapons.

Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi denounced the US for possessing the world's largest stockpile of chemical arms, despite being a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) that requires signatories to abolish their arsenal of such weapons by April 29, 2012, said a Foreign Ministry press release on Tuesday.

The statement coincides with the 24th anniversary of a massive chemical attack by the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein on the Iranian city of Sardasht in 1987, IRNA reported.

Sardasht, an Iranian city near the border with Iraq, was attacked by four bombs containing 250 kilograms (550 lb) of mustard gas. The bombs were dropped in the densely populated town center.

The Iranian foreign minister blamed a number of Western countries for providing the former Iraqi regime with chemical weapons in order to undermine the nascent Islamic Revolution of Iran.

Earlier in the day, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also described the use of chemical weapons against Iranian civilians during the 1980-88 Iraqi-imposed war as 'international terrorism led by Western powers.'

“Today we are witnessing the emergence of an ominous and evil phenomenon by the name of terrorism, which is undoubtedly the result of moral corruption and the desire to impose dominance on others,” said the president.

Sardasht is the third populated city in the world, after Japan's Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which was deliberately targeted by Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Sardasht is the first town in the world to be gassed. More than 100 people were killed in the attack.

The actual toll, however, is far greater as out of the population of 20,000, nearly 5,000 individuals are still suffering from severe respiratory and skin illnesses and disorders ever since the chemical attack was launched. The WMD attack was initially met with total silence by the international community, especially the US-led Western countries that waged an all-out war on Iraq in 2003 under the false pretext of removing WMD's allegedly held by the former dictator in Baghdad.

Unfortunately, said Salehi in the statement, the US is making no efforts to meet its CWC commitments, nor does it persuade the Israeli regime, its closest Middle East ally, to join the convention. Thus the world is faced with a major threat of nuclear arms, he emphasized.

Since 1958, when Israel began building its Dimona plutonium- and uranium-processing facility in the Negev desert, it has secretly manufactured numerous nuclear warheads, earning the reputation as the sole possessor of such weapons in the Middle East.

Former US President Jimmy Carter has attested to the existence of the Israeli nuclear arsenal, which he said includes between 200 to 300 warheads.

Israel, however, has neither confirmed nor denied possessing nuclear arms under a policy of 'nuclear ambiguity.'

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Iran Raps Israel Nuclear Weapons Policy
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Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi says Israel's nuclear weapons policies and the West's support of them have undermined efforts to reach a nuke-free Middle East.

“Unfortunately, the establishment of a nuke-free Middle East region has been held hostage to the Zionist regime (Israel)'s nuclear weapons policies over the past forty years,” Salehi said in a speech at the 38th meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the Kazakh capital of Astana on Tuesday, IRNA reported.

“The Zionist regime's persistent defiance to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and put its nuclear facilities under the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Safeguards have been undermining international efforts to reach regional and global disarmament,” he added.

The senior Iranian official criticized certain countries' support of Israel's nuke activities and said the West's double standards have endangered global peace.

Salehi added that the existence of thousands of nuclear weapons by nuclear-weapon states and their threats to use them against non-nuclear weapon countries threaten all human beings, in particular Muslim nations.

“Due to the systematic avoidance of nuclear armed-countries to engage in disarmament talks with a good will, the world today is under the shadow of nuclear threats,” he went on to say.

Salehi pointed out that Iran has presented a resolution on denuclearization to the OIC meeting and hoped that it would be ratified.

Salehi further explained that the resolution would constitute a basis for nuclear disarmament through a binding convention that would forbid the use of weapons of mass destruction.

Elsewhere in his speech, he touched on terrorism and described it as a “global menace” and said that an internationally accepted approach was needed to be adopted to fight against terrorism.

“Selective approaches and double standards toward terrorism have overshadowed international confidence and cooperation in fight against such a threat.”

He added that terrorism could only be curbed if its root causes, including foreign occupation, were called into attention.

The top Iranian official also underlined the role of the OIC in establishing peace and fostering unity among Muslim nations and said,” The OIC is the only organization that acts as the UN Islamic body in uniting 57 countries in four continents.”

Salehi urged OIC member states to coordinate efforts to devise effective mechanisms to develop cooperation among each other.

“The Islamic Ummah is facing serious challenges in the drastically changing world today and Islamic countries need to fulfill their roles in order to surmount problems and challenges,” he concluded.

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North Korea Threatens to Attack South Korea
Associated Press
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North Korea threatened Wednesday to launch a ‘sacred war’ against South Korea even as a delegation from Seoul traveled across the countries’ heavily fortified border for a meeting on a stalled joint tourism project.
A North Korean government spokesman accused front-line South Korean army units of setting up ‘virulent’ signs that slander North Korea and of inciting ‘extreme hostility’ toward Pyongyang.

‘This is little short of a clear declaration of war,’ the unidentified spokesman said in comments carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. ‘We will react to the enemy’s provocation with a stern punishment and counter its war with a merciless retaliatory sacred war.’

The threat came one day after South Korea’s Hankyoreh newspaper reported that some South Korean army units near the border had set up anti-North Korea slogans in the wake of two deadly attacks blamed on North Korea last year.

The newspaper carried a photo showing a banner reading ‘Let’s ram guns and swords into the chests of North Korean puppet soldiers!’ hanging over the entrance of one army unit in Cheolwon, a town near the central portion of the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea.

The newspaper said the unit also wrote on its walls such signs as ‘Let’s hack the three Kims into pieces,’ a reference to late North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, his son and current leader Kim Jong Il, and grandson and heir-apparent Kim Jong Un.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry confirmed the substance of the report, saying some army units have taken such measures to bolster their soldiers’ mental toughness against North Korea.

The two Koreas are technically still at war because their 1950s conflict ended with a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

North Korea’s threat to attack South Korea is only the latest in a series of warnings and hostile statements from Pyongyang aimed at the conservative government of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. It comes as the two Koreas were to meet Wednesday to discuss North Korea’s seizure of South Korean assets at the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain.

Joint tours to the mountain were suspended in 2008 following the shooting death of a South Korean tourist. North Korea later confiscated or shut down South Korean-owned buildings and other facilities there.

A group of South Korean officials and business leaders crossed the border and headed to the mountain for talks hours after the North’s threat, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.

Animosities between the Koreas have deepened since North Korea allegedly torpedoed a South Korean warship in March last year. The North also shelled a South Korean border island in November. A total of 50 South Koreans were killed.

Tension spiked again last month when North Korea threatened to attack because of South Korean troops’ use of photos of the three Kims as targets during firing drills. South Korea’s Defense Ministry later told military units to stop using such photo targets, but it has no immediate plans to ask troops to stop using anti-North Korean signs, a ministry official said.

In Washington, the nominee to command the 28,500 US troops in South Korea said Tuesday that he expects a continuing cycle of provocations from North Korea as Kim Jong Il attempts to retain a nuclear weapons program and faces a deteriorating economy and food shortages.

‘I think a provocation can occur at any time,’ Gen. James Thurman said at his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing.

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North Korea, Russia Abandon Plans for Kim Meeting
Denis Dyomkin
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The leaders of North Korea and Russia appeared Wednesday to have canceled plans for a summit in the Far East when the Kremlin said President Dmitry Medvedev had no meetings scheduled with Kim Jong-il.

Russian local authorities in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, 130 km (80 miles) from the North Korean border, had been making preparations for a possible visit by the secretive North Korean leader, a local official said earlier this week.

But the Kremlin said Medvedev had no meetings scheduled with Kim during his visit to Vladivostok and a police source said officers had been told the visit had been scrapped.

"No such meeting is included in the program for Dmitry Medvedev's trip to Vladivostok," Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said by telephone.

Russia is a member of the long-stalled six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program. Diplomats say Moscow has less influence on North Korea than does neighboring China.

Medvedev will inspect preparations for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting which will be held in Vladivostok in 2012.

Kim has made no public visit to Russia since 2002, when he met with then-President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok. The North Korean leader has made several trips to China, Pyongyang's closest big power ally, in recent years.

"We never said that he was going to come," said Medvedev's spokeswoman, Timakova.


A police source in Vladivostok said that officers had been told that the expected visit by Kim, who local officials expected to travel by train, had been canceled.

"We were told that Kim is not going to come. Moscow stood us down. Kim Jong-il is canceled," the police source said. Another police source confirmed officers had been told the Kim visit would not take place.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency cited an unidentified intelligence source as saying that the summit may have been ditched as Moscow and Pyongyang failed to narrow differences over the agenda for the meeting.

"A summit between Chairman Kim Jong-il and President Dmitry Medvedev was known to be scheduled to take place in Russia's Far Eastern region of Vladivostok on June 30 or July 1," a senior South Korean government source said in the Yonhap story.

"We have no idea yet why the talks were canceled."

Russia and North Korea share a short border on the Pacific coast and were once politically close. But relations cooled and trade diminished dramatically after the collapse of the Communist Soviet Union in 1991.

Earlier this month, Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao issued a joint declaration calling for a diplomatic solution to the North's nuclear program.

Russia and China said they were ready to cooperate with other partners to seek a resumption of the moribund six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program.

The United States, South Korea and Japan -- the other participants in six-party talks -- have urged the two Koreas first resolve their differences bilaterally before a resumption of the regional aid-for-denuclearization talks.

Tension increased on the peninsula last year after two attacks killed 50 South Koreans, and the North revealed a uranium enrichment program giving it a second route to developing a nuclear bomb.

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C.  Japan

Atomic Power to Stay, Kepco Tells Investors
Eric Johnston
Japan Times
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Kansai Electric Power Co. told shareholders Wednesday it plans to stick with nuclear power and alternative energies would be a smaller part of the overall future energy mix.

Kepco's announcement came as five of the nation's electric utilities held shareholders' meetings the same day, focusing on the safety of atomic energy following the previous day's fiery confrontation between investors and Tokyo Electric Power Co. over its radiation-spewing Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Kepco, Tohoku Electric, Hokkaido Electric, Chugoku Electric and Shikoku Electric all conducted their annual meetings.

During the Kepco meeting in Osaka, which was attended by Osaka Mayor Kunio Hiramatsu, several angry exchanges erupted between antinuclear shareholders and Kepco officials.

Hiramatsu, as well as Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto, had met with Kepco's president earlier this month to push for the utility to consider how to move from nuclear energy to solar, wind, and other renewable energies.

Many of the shareholders called on the company to invest more in renewable energy resources. The city of Osaka holds about 9.4 percent of Kepco's stock, and Hiramatsu told the gathering he wanted to see the utility expand its efforts in renewables.

"The shift from nuclear power to a firm that makes use of a broader range of energy resources is the company's social responsibility," Hiramatsu said.

But 51 percent of Kepco's electricity comes from nuclear plants — a level far higher than the national average of about 30 percent.

The utility said its mid- to long-term strategy was actually to use more nuclear power while determining what the role of renewables should be.

"Nuclear power will be central to our future plans, and along with renewables, we aim to find the best energy mix," Kepco Vice President Yasuo Hamada said.

Kepco President Makoto Yagi also emphasized the importance of nuclear power to the company's future and said the first step was to restore public trust by addressing the safety of the plants in case of a natural disaster.

"We have already established countermeasures to deal with the possibility of an earthquake or tsunami that affects our nuclear power plants (on the Japan Sea coast in Fukui Prefecture)," Yagi said.

Shareholders, supported by the Kepco board of directors, voted down a resolution that would have forced Yagi to resign. They also voted against proposals to have three outside environmental NGO observers serve as advisers and one that would have denied executives bonuses until the company withdrew from nuclear power.

Another question from the floor concerned the necessity of Kepco's demand that customers cut electricity use by 15 percent due to the closure of nuclear plants for inspection.

Kepco apologized for the confusion over the announcement, and admitted it could have done a better job explaining how it arrived at that figure.

Most local governments in the Kansai region plan to enact a variety of electricity-saving measures from July 1, with prefectural and municipal governments agreeing on reductions they say will cut electricity use by up to 17 percent.

But speculation among antinuclear activists and some local media is that Kepco's announcement of a 15 percent cut was also to put the brakes on discussions within Kansai about the possibility of shifting to renewable energy.

In late May, seven Kansai prefectures expressed support for Softbank founder Masayoshi Son's megasolar initiative, which aims to slash nuclear power usage by putting solar panels on unused farmland. Less than two weeks later, Kepco, without a detailed explanation, announced a 15 percent cut was needed to avoid the risk of power shortages.

Meanwhile, investors in other power firms also focused on the nuclear issue, discussing a split over nuclear plants' potential danger and the economic benefits of hosting them.

"Stable electricity supply is the key to sustaining Japan's industrial activities," Yoshiko Kataoka, 74, who holds stake in Tohoku Electric, said in Sendai.

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TEPCO Ready to Give Crucial Water Cleaning Another Go
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Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to restart a system to recirculate processed water to cool reactors at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on June 29 at the earliest.

The system was halted on the evening of June 27 after only 90 minutes of operation.

In the latest setback, TEPCO discovered that about a ton of water had leaked because of an improperly secured pipe joint.

The utility intends to restart the system after checking to ensure pipe fittings of the same type--used at 100 points in the system--are properly secured.

TEPCO said it did not recheck the pipes before it activated the system because it had done so on June 12.

The water recirculation system was installed to reduce the amount of radioactive water building up in the complex.

Sixteen tons of water per hour, brought in from a dam outside the plant, is being pumped in to cool the No. 1 through No. 3 reactors.

The water becomes radioactive after exposure to the nuclear fuel rods and accumulates in the basement of reactor and turbine buildings.

With the recirculation system in place, TEPCO hopes to cool the reactors with 3 tons of water from outside sources and 13 tons of treated water per hour, drastically reducing the need for outside water, and to clean up the already contaminated water in the plant.

The utility needs to deal with about 110,000 tons of radioactive water in the plant--the equivalent of 200 25-meter swimming pools.

The entire plan hinges on the effectiveness of the water purification unit. But numerous glitches have slowed progress. The unit, unprecedented on a global scale, is complicated and combines various technologies.

Equipment made by Kurion Inc. of the United States is designed to absorb radioactive material using minerals. Equipment made by French nuclear engineering company Areva SA lowers the concentration of radioactivity using chemical agents. An oil separator and desalination equipment are also part of the unit.

With the water purification unit, TEPCO hopes to push down radiation levels in contaminated water to one/10,000th to 1/1,000,000th of original levels.

Unless radiation levels are cut to below 1/10,000th, desalination equipment cannot treat radioactive salt water. Salt water was earlier used to cool the reactor cores.

The complexity of the unit, with its many pipes, valves and pumps, makes it susceptible to failure.

Engineers working on the unit say they did not expect the effort to be trouble free.

"We anticipated multiple difficulties," Junichi Matsumoto, a senior official at TEPCO's nuclear power section, said, speaking about earlier problems.

Even if the recirculation system works, processing the contaminated water will leave radioactive residue. According to a TEPCO estimate, it will run 200,000 tons of highly radioactive water through the unit by December.

The use of Areva's equipment alone is expected to leave about 2,000 cubic meters of contaminated waste, enough to fill four to five 25-meter swimming pools.

The waste will be stored in a tank in the basement of the intensive disposal and treatment facility plus another tank and other facilities to be installed in the compound.

How to ultimately get rid of the waste remains to be seen, with no applicable laws in place.

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Tepco, Chubu Rally Around Japan Nuclear Future, Defying Growing Opposition
Yuji Okada and Shigeru Sato
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Tokyo Electric Power Co. led Japanese utilities in rallying around a nuclear future, defying growing public opposition to atomic energy after the worst radiation accident in 25 years.

Shareholders of Tepco, as Japan’s biggest utility is known, voted to continue with nuclear power yesterday at the company’s first annual meeting since the crisis at its Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant wiped about $36 billion off its market value. Kansai Electric Power Co. today reinforced the status quo, with shareholders rejecting a motion to halt reactors.

The votes in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that caused meltdowns at Fukushima show Japan’s reliance on atomic energy even as opposition grows. Shareholders of Tohoku Electric Power Co. and other regional energy providers also voted down proposals against nuclear power.

“Everybody in Japan has a stake in the country’s energy future, even if they don’t own a stake in a power company,” Jeff Kingston, head of Temple University’s Asian Studies program at its Tokyo campus, said by telephone. The utilities are “trying as desperately as possible to circle the wagons, marginalize public opinion and proceed with business as usual,” he said.

Kansai Electric, dependent on atomic energy for 43 percent of its power output and Tepco’s biggest domestic rival, faced comments from shareholders for almost five hours, its longest annual meeting. Osaka Mayor Kunio Hiramatsu, whose city is the utility’s biggest shareholder, called on the company to develop alternatives to nuclear energy.

Sustaining Growth

“With the stability of our electricity supply in question, governments and citizens need to discuss adopting energy policies that sustain economic growth,” Hiramatsu said. “We should cooperate with industry in these efforts.”

Tepco President Toshio Nishizawa, who took over after the shareholders meeting, plans to hold on to assets related to its power business and sell recreation facilities and shareholdings in its affiliates, he said in a June 16 interview that was embargoed until late yesterday.

“Each asset needs to be sold at the best time and in the best way,” said Nishizawa, 60, adding that the utility will rely on government funding for compensation payments to victims.

Tepco plans to sell its “non-core” assets within three years, Nishizawa said today at his first press conference since he was confirmed as president of the utility.

LNG Supply

As part of the fund-raising efforts, Tepco may package the building housing its headquarters in central Tokyo into securities for sale, the Tokyo Shimbun reported today citing Nishizawa. The building may be valued at 39 billion yen ($481 million), the newspaper said.

Liquefied natural gas-fired plants will become the main source of electricity generation for Tepco, the Nikkei newspaper reported today, citing Nishizawa. The company plans to join an Australian project that will supply 20 percent of its LNG requirements, he told the Nikkei, which didn’t identify the venture.

Tepco annually imports about 20 million metric tons of LNG, or about 28 percent of Japan’s overall purchases of the fuel, according to data compiled by the company and the finance ministry.

Kansai Electric, which supplies Japan’s second-largest commercial region, this month joined Tepco in asking users to cut consumption this summer by 15 percent to avert blackouts after the disaster led to the closure of some plants and delayed resumption of others shut for maintenance.

‘Tepco Needs Nuclear’

Nuclear power accounted for almost a third of Japan’s energy requirements before the disaster.

“I was against the proposal to withdraw from nuclear power,” Takaaki Matsui, a 27-year-old engineer and shareholder of Tepco, said after attending the company’s annual meeting yesterday. “Tepco needs nuclear power to keep supply and demand balanced.”

The votes of support came a week after Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a seismology professor at Kobe University, called for the closure of the nation’s 54 atomic reactors because none of them can be guaranteed to withstand strong earthquakes.

Ishibashi earlier warned of a catastrophic nuclear disaster after Tepco’s Kashiwazaki Kariwa station was damaged by an earthquake in 2007, leading to radiation leaks.

Opposition to nuclear power is increasing in Japan following the crisis.

The Nikkei newspaper reported this week that 69 percent of respondents to a telephone poll oppose the restart of nuclear reactors currently shut for maintenance.

Nuclear Opposition

About 47 percent of 893 people polled from June 24 to June 26 want to reduce the number of atomic plants, an increase of 5 percent from a month earlier, the newspaper said.

The Fukushima disaster displaced 50,000 households after radiation leaked into the air, soil and sea. Tepco may face as much as 11 trillion yen in compensation claims, according to Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch unit.

The utility posted a loss of 1.25 trillion yen for the year ended March 31, including a 1.1 trillion yen charge related to costs from the accident.

Tepco, whose shares have plunged 85 percent since the earthquake, had record attendance at yesterday’s meeting with 9,309 shareholders, compared with the company’s expectations of 5,600. It was the longest meeting on record, the company said.

A group of shareholders that’s been proposing a motion to stop Tepco from using atomic energy for the past two decades, tried again to rally support for withdrawing from nuclear energy. The proposal was voted down.

“We can’t give up on this - it’s too important,” said Hisataka Yamasaki, a member of the shareholders group that brought the proposal against nuclear power at Tepco’s meeting yesterday. “Everybody knew that Dai-Ichi was at risk from an earthquake and tsunami. It shows how hard it is to change the government’s view of nuclear that the company wasn’t forced to make the proper preparations.”

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Radioactive Water Leaks from Japan's Damaged Plant
Shinichi Saoshiro and Yoko Kubota
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Tonnes of radioactive water were discovered on Tuesday to have leaked into the ground from Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, the latest in a series of leaks at the plant damaged in a March earthquake and tsunami, the country's nuclear watchdog said.

More than three months after the disaster, authorities are struggling to bring under control damaged reactors at the power plant, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo.

About 15 tonnes of water with a low level of radiation leaked from a storage tank at the plant on the Pacific coast, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) said it was investigating the cause of the leak which was later repaired.

Vast amounts of water contaminated with varying levels of radiation have accumulated in storage tanks at the plant after being used to cool reactors damaged when their original cooling systems were knocked out by the March 11 disaster.

Dealing with that radioactive water has been a major problem for Tepco, which is trying to use a decontamination system that cleans water so it can be recycled to cool the reactors.

But the system has encountered technical glitches and officials have said the water could spill into the Pacific Ocean unless the system was operating properly.

The system was halted an hour and a half after it started on Monday because of a water leakage.

Tepco fixed the problem and restarted the system on Tuesday afternoon, said Junichi Matsumoto, an official at the utility.

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D.  Nuclear Energy

BKW-Muehleberg Nuclear Plant to Close Until Sept
Silke Koltrowitz
(for personal use only)

Switzerland's BKW FMB Energie (BKWN.S) said it would shut the Muehleberg nuclear power plant on June 30, five weeks ahead of a scheduled annual inspection, in order to implement new safety measures.

The group aims to meet additional safety requirements of the Federal Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) in the wake of the Fukushima catastrophe and plans to reconnect the plant in September, it said in a statement on Wednesday.

The new measures are devised to prevent a blockage in the cooling water system in the event of an extreme flood, BKW said.

Providing substitute energy during the outage will cost about 20 million Swiss francs ($24 million), the company said, adding it could not confirm the outlook for its 2011 financial results.

The Swiss government decided last month to build no more nuclear reactors once current plants reach the end of their lifespan. [ID:nLDE74O1MF]

Swiss nuclear safety body ENSI said in May it had detected safety problems at Switzerland's nuclear plants, including Muehleberg, and asked utility groups to address these problems by the end of August.

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Poland Nuclear Plant Bill Passed by Parliament
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Poland's parliament approved on Wednesday second of two bills needed to start off construction of the country's first nuclear plant, parliament's press office said on Wednesday.

The bill setting special rules for investing in nuclear power plants will now await President Bronislaw Komorowski's signing in order to be turned into law after the lower house Sejm approved changes proposed by the Senate.

The first bill, updating nuclear law and adjusting it to needs of nuclear energy instead of only scientific research was earlier accepted by the Senate without changes and signed by the President on June 16.

Poland's government wants to build its first out of two nuclear power plants by 2020-2021 to break the country's dependency on highly polluting coal.

Top Polish utility PGE, which is responsible for building the two nuclear plants with a planned total capacity of 6 gigawatts at a cost of 18-21 billion euros ($25.7-$30 billion), will announce a tender for technology suppliers once the bills are enacted.

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Sarkozy Bucks Europe's Anti-Nuke Trend
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French President Nicolas Sarkozy's move to buck Europe's anti-nuclear trend and double down on atomic power comes at a key political juncture, analysts say.

Sarkozy committed to a $1.5 billion investment in France's nuclear power industry Monday at a time when some other European countries have placed moratoriums on new plants and a major poll indicates French public opinion has turned against it.

The president told reporters at the Elysee Palace in Paris he intends to beef up nuclear safety research and development in a move meant to assure the public nuclear energy is safe and reliable in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi plant disaster in Japan.

"There is no alternative to nuclear power today," Sarkozy said. "Those who ask for a moratorium -- I find this curious. It would consist in keeping old plants and abstaining from researching new safer plants."

France derives 74 percent of its electricity from nuclear power plants, and their performance is a point of national pride. Sarkozy's announcement touched on that Monday when he asserted France was "considerably ahead" of other countries when it comes to nuclear technology and safety.

"Our power stations are more expensive because they are safer," he said.

In addition to the nuclear investment, Sarkozy said a further $1.9 billion would be earmarked for renewable energy. Both are part of his $50 billion "big loan" stimulus package launched in 2009 meant to encourage innovation in business and scientific research.

The money for the investments would come through government borrowing and repayments from bailed-out banks that sought taxpayer help during the 2008 financial crisis.

There was a clear political backdrop for the announcement, analysts said. Sarkozy announced his nuclear commitment just as attention was focused on the opposition French Socialist Party, which entered a key phase in choosing its next presidential candidate.

Political observers were expecting Socialist leader Martine Aubry to announce her decision to enter the party's primary elections, joining front-runner Francois Hollande in the race for the party nomination, Paris broadcaster France 24 reported.

Some opinion polls have put both Hollande and Aubry well ahead of Sarkozy for the first round of the presidential vote, just as a recent major poll indicated the French public -- after many years of strong support -- now favors a phaseout of nuclear energy in the wake of moves to do so in Germany, Switzerland and Italy following the Fukushima disaster.

A poll conducted this month for the Journal Du Dimanche by the French Institute for Public Opinion indicated French popular sentiment about nuclear energy has swung sharply negative in the wake of Fukushima.

More than six in 10 respondents said they favored a shutdown of nuclear power plants over a 25- to 30-year period, the poll indicated.

The Socialists are being pressured by their allies in the French Green Party, known as Europe Ecologie-Les Verts, to adopt a similar anti-nuclear plank, possibly setting up an election showdown on the issue.

"This will be the first time that the issue of nuclear power plays a significant role in a French presidential election," energy consultant Pierre-Louis Brenac told The Wall Street Journal. "It's a big change."

The swing of popular opinion on nuclear energy was also evident over the weekend when thousands of demonstrators formed a human chain around France's oldest nuclear power plant at Fessenheim in Alsace.

Fessenheim, run by French power group EDF, has been the focal point of a fierce debate over the safety of nuclear plants, British newspaper The Guardian reported.

In operation since 1977, the French, German and Swiss demonstrators claim it is vulnerable to flooding and earthquakes.

Sarkozy's government is carrying out risk audits of the country's nuclear plants, including their exposure to damage from earthquakes and other causes, and plans to release the results in September.

Until then, no decision on Fessenheim would be made, French Ecology Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet told the newspaper.

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Saudi, Argentina Sign Nuclear Cooperation Deal
The Daily Star
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Saudi Arabia has signed a nuclear energy cooperation deal with nuclear desalination specialist Argentina, the Saudi government said Tuesday.

Argentina's Atomic Energy Commission and technology firm INVAP have a simplified pressurized water reactor design aimed at small-scale electricity generation and water desalination projects, which are both urgent needs for the oil-rich Kingdom.

"Saudi Arabia is very pleased to have entered into a cooperation agreement with Argentina, a country that has exhibited continued leadership in the transfer of technology, the sharing of best practices, and the safe operation of atomic reactors," said Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani, president of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy.

"With Saudi Arabia's local power demand expected to nearly triple in the next 20 years, it's critical that the Kingdom use atomic and renewable energy technologies to meet this growing demand in a safe, sustainable and clean manner."

Saudi is struggling to keep up with rapidly rising power demand, especially for energy intensive seawater desalination, and wants to build nuclear reactors to cut gas and oil burning in the power generation sector.

It has signed similar agreements with several other countries with experience in nuclear energy.

INVAP has built research reactors in Algeria and Egypt.

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West Queries China over Pakistan Atom Ties
Fredrik Dahl
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Western nations pressed China at closed-door nuclear talks to provide more information and help address concerns about its plans to expand an atomic energy plant in Pakistan, diplomatic sources said on Wednesday.

But China showed no sign of reconsidering its position on building two more reactors at the Chashma nuclear power complex in Pakistan's Punjab region, said the sources who attended a June 23-24 meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Beijing's nuclear ties with Islamabad have caused unease in Washington, Delhi and other capitals. They are worried about Pakistan's history of spreading nuclear arms technology and the integrity of international non-proliferation rules.

Washington and other governments have said China should seek approval for the planned reactors from the NSG, a 46-nation, consensus-based cartel that seeks to ensure nuclear exports do not get used for military purposes.

Beijing is likely to shun such calls, arguing that the construction of two additional units at Chashma would be part of a bilateral deal sealed before it joined the NSG in 2004. China also supplied the facility's first two reactors.

The United States and European countries made statements at the meeting in the Dutch town of Noordwijk that "both expressed concern and asked the Chinese to provide more information," one diplomat who attended the talks said.

"The Chinese came back and said that as far as they were concerned Chashma 3 and 4 came under the agreement that was grandfathered when they joined in 2004 and that is as far as they feel they need to go," the diplomat added.

The NSG's annual plenary session addressed a range of nuclear-related issues, and agreed to tighten guidelines for the transfer of sensitive enrichment and reprocessing technology that can be used to develop nuclear weapons.

But a statement about the talks did not mention Chashma.

"It is a very sensitive topic," said one European official.


Another diplomat who declined to be named said: "A number of countries expressed concern and requested more information. There was a brief response from China."

Close relations between China and Pakistan reflect a long-standing shared wariness of their common neighbor, India, and a desire to hedge against U.S. influence across the region.

Chinese nuclear companies have not issued detailed information about when they will start building the new units, but contracts have been signed and financing is being secured.

To receive nuclear exports, nations that are not one of the five officially recognized atomic weapons states must usually place all their nuclear activities under the safeguards of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, NSG rules say.

When the United States sealed a nuclear supply deal with India in 2008 that China and other countries found questionable because Delhi -- like Islamabad -- is outside the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Washington won a waiver from that rule after contentious negotiations.

Pakistan wants a similar civilian nuclear agreement with the United States to help meet its growing energy needs.

But Washington is reluctant, largely because a Pakistani nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, admitted in 2004 to transferring nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

Pakistan tested nuclear devices in 1998, soon after India, and both nations refuse to join the NPT, which would oblige them to scrap nuclear weapons.

The first diplomat suggested that a possible way forward on Chashma was if China said that the two new reactors would be the last it claims do not need approval from the NSG.

"What in reality is needed is something that says: this is it, this is the end. And if Chashma 3 and 4 are the end, that is possibly a price worth paying," the diplomat said.

Nuclear analyst Mark Hibbs said he believed China would press ahead with its Pakistan reactor plans and that there were divisions among other NSG states on how to respond to this.

"A kind of 'don't ask, don't tell policy' ... would be very damaging for the credibility of the NSG," said Hibbs, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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Nuclear Energy Institute Spent $545k Lobbying
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The main trade group for the nuclear power industry spent $545,000 in the first quarter lobbying about financial support for new reactors and safety regulations, according to a disclosure report.

The Nuclear Energy Institute spent 26 percent more than the $405,000 it spent in fourth quarter of last year and 21 percent more than the $430,000 it spent in the first quarter of 2010.

The nuclear crisis in Japan brought about by a March 13 earthquake and tsunami led in late March to the first of what are expected to be a series of government calls for tighter safety regulations for nuclear plants in the United States.

NEI, based in Washington, also lobbied for support for building new nuclear reactors and for funds for research and development for smaller, cheaper reactors.

Because nuclear reactors are complex and take years to build, they are extremely expensive. The industry has asked the federal government to guarantee construction loans to lower the overall cost of the new plants.

The George W. Bush administration set aside $18.5 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors. President Obama has proposed tripling the size of the program.

Only one loan guarantee has been awarded, however, to a new reactor being built near Augusta, Ga. Low electricity prices have forced utilities to scale back construction plans. Safety concerns stemming from the Japanese crisis have clouded hope for new reactors further.

Nuclear reactors produce about 20 percent of the nation's electricity, but the country's 104 reactors are aging. No new reactor has been planned and completed since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.

NEI also lobbied about clean water rules that affect how power plants of all types are cooled and about how the production and transportation of nuclear materials is regulated.

In the first three months of 2011, NEI lobbied Congress, the Commerce Department, the Defense Department, the Energy Department, the Homeland Security Department, the Executive Office of the President, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Office of Management and Budget, the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department, the Transportation Department, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Small Business Administration, according to the report filed April 19 with the House clerk's office.

Lobbyists are required to disclose activities that could influence members of the executive and legislative branches of government under a federal law enacted in 1995.

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E.  Nuclear Safety

Russia Has 'No plans' to Undergo EU Nuclear Stress Tests: Rosatom
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Russia has no plans to submit its nuclear reactors directly to EU-style safety stress tests, Kirill Kormarov of Russian state energy corporation Rosatom told Platts in Brussels late Monday.

"We don't want to fulfill the EU stress tests--we've done tests already," Kormarov, who is deputy general director for global business development at Rosatom, said on the sidelines of an industry debate on the future of nuclear in central and eastern Europe.

The EU agreed common criteria in May for safety tests to be carried out on all 143 EU reactors starting June 1. The move came in response to Japan's nuclear crisis at Fukushima earlier this year, and the EC has also pushed for the EU's neighbors to agree to a similar nuclear safety review.

The EC's nuclear energy director Peter Faross said during the debate "that there is a will for Russia to use the EU system." But when faced with Kormarov's comments, Faross told Platts that although there were no obstacles to Russia participating in EU stress tests, currently there is only a "joint declaration to contribute to transparency and to participate in the peer review [a review of national safety reports at an EU level by the European nuclear regulators' group Ensreg]."

The declaration was signed on June 23 by the EC and Armenia, Belarus, Croatia, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine.

"First we'll have to see [Russia's] national report and there will be a meeting in July on this," Faross said.


Russia's state energy regulator completed its own tests on nuclear reactors in May and will be spending some $200 million in additional safety measures this year, including additional pumps and generators for the plants, said Kormarov. Russia is ready to exchange the results of the two independent stress tests it has completed, he added.

Russian reactors have also undergone tests from Wano, the world association for nuclear energy operators, which includes technical expertise from French utility EDF, Kormarov said.

For its part, the EC has no estimates of how much the EU stress tests will cost.

"It is the first time that we [group together] countries and industry using stress tests," Faross said.

Necessary work outlined by national regulators would fall under national government budgets, but any work deemed necessary by the EU peer reviews, which would follow national analysis, would fall under the EU budget, he said.

The EC is to give a first progress report on the tests to EU leaders on December 9, and the full process is to be completed by mid-2012.

The EC's next step is to push for an international accord on set measures for nuclear safety in September, Faross said.

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F.  Nuclear Security

Six Uranium Traffickers Arrested in Moldova
Agence France-Presse
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Police in ex-Soviet Moldova have arrested six suspected traffickers in radioactive materials and seized Uranium-235 which can be used to make nuclear weapons, officials said on Wednesday.

"On Monday police arrested in Chisinau six people seeking a buyer for a small amount of uranium," the country's Prosecutor General, Vitalie Briceag, told AFP.
"The police have learnt that they had found a potential customer, a citizen of a Muslim country in Africa," he said.

An interior ministry spokesperson said one of the suspects was in possession of a small container of Uranium-235.

The Moldovan authorities received assistance from Germany, Ukraine and the United States in their investigation, the prosecutor said.

Uranium-235 can be used both to produce nuclear weapons and at nuclear power plants.

In August 2010, the Moldovan police seized a container with 1.8 kilogrammes (4.0 pounds) of highly-radioactive Uranium-238 and arrested a group of suspected traffickers who had sought to sell it for nine million euros (11 million dollars).

Since the fall of the Communist bloc, experts have issued repeated warnings about the trafficking risks posed by former Soviet republics such as Moldova, an impoverished nation bordering EU member Romania and Ukraine.

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

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