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Nuclear News - 7/12/2011
PGS Nuclear News, July 12, 2011
Compiled By: Eli Ginsberg

A.  Iran
    1. UN Atomic Energy Head to Meet Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mehr Says, Ladane Nasseri, Bloomberg (7/10/2011)
    2. Iran’s Nuclear Steps Deepen Western Suspicions, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (7/7/2011)
    3. IAEA Chief Says to Meet Iran FM, Wants Cooperation, Jack Kimball, Reuters (7/7/2011)
    1. Pakistan Denies North Korea Bribe for Nuclear Technology, Chris Allbritton, Reuters (7/7/2011)
C.  India
    1. India Begins Work on Second Nuclear Submarine, The Asian Age (7/10/2011)
D.  Japan
    1. Japanese Gov't to Launch Two-Stage Nuke Reactor Safety Checks, UPI (7/11/2011)
    2. Japan Clarifies Nuclear 'Stress Testing,' , BBC News (7/11/2011)
    3. Japan Still Needs Nuclear Power: Tokyo Governor, The Straits Times  (7/11/2011)
    4. Tokyo Electric Says Fukushima Nuclear Cooling Uninterrupted by Earthquake, Toshiro Hasegawa and Toru Fujioka, Bloomberg (7/9/2011)
E.  Nuclear Energy
    1. France to Analyze Effect of Cutting Nuclear Energy, Echos Says, Helene Fouquet, Bloomberg (7/11/2011)
    2. Russian Reactor Reconnected to Power Grid After Shutdown, RIA Novosti (7/10/2011)
    3. South Korea's New Nuclear Reactor Set to Start Operation in Dec., Yonhap News Agency (7/10/2011)
    4. Pakistan Capable of Capturing Multi-Trillion Nuclear Energy Market, AAP (7/9/2011)
    5. China Moving Toward Establishing its First Law on Nuclear Power, The Denki Shimbun (7/8/2011)
    6. German Parliament Backs Nuclear Exit by 2022, Agence France-Presse (7/8/2011)

A.  Iran

UN Atomic Energy Head to Meet Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mehr Says
Ladane Nasseri
(for personal use only)

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano will meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on July 12 to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, state-run Mehr news reported, citing Iran’s IAEA envoy.

The meeting will take place in Vienna, the news agency reported yesterday, citing Ali Asghar Soltanieh. Iran is in a deadlock over its nuclear program, which the U.S. and its allies believe is cover for the development of atomic weapons. The Persian Gulf country rejects the allegation.

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IAEA Chief Says to Meet Iran FM, Wants Cooperation
Jack Kimball
(for personal use only)

The U.N. nuclear chief said on Wednesday that he planned to meet with Iran's foreign minister next week and that he was "quite concerned" over plans by Tehran to triple uranium production capacity.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told Reuters in the Colombian capital, Bogota, that he planned to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi next week, but had no firm details.

"The most important message for Iran is that they need to fully implement the safeguard agreement and other relevant obligations. Further cooperation is needed to restore the confidence of the international community," he said.

"We are quite concerned about that," Amano said, confirming that the IAEA had received a "very simple" letter from Iran about the plans.

Iran announced last month it would shift its production of higher-grade uranium to an underground bunker and triple output capacity in a defiant move that further fueled Western unease about Tehran's intentions.

Western powers suspect Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability while Tehran rejects the charge, saying its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity.

Iran's refusal to halt enrichment has led to four rounds of U.N. sanctions on the major oil producer, as well tighter U.S. and European Union restrictions.

Iran's determination to press ahead with a nuclear program suggests that the sanctions are so far failing to force the Islamic state to back down in the long-running dispute over its atomic aims.

Amano reiterated he would consider accepting an invitation to visit Iran but stressed it would have to yield concrete results: "For now I don't see, unfortunately, progress."

On Syria -- which the IAEA's board reported to the Security Council in early June for covert atomic work -- Amano said that there had been no "concrete progress".

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Iran’s Nuclear Steps Deepen Western Suspicions
Fredrik Dahl
(for personal use only)

Expanding uranium enrichment, a new atomic energy chief said to have military expertise, missile tests — Western analysts see fresh signs that Iran may be seeking to develop the means to build nuclear warheads.

Iran’s determination to press ahead with a nuclear programme it says is for purely peaceful purposes suggests that tougher Western sanctions are so far failing to force the Islamic state to back down in the long-running dispute over its atomic aims.

“Although developments elsewhere in the Middle East have dominated media attention, Iran has been working hard in several ways to advance a nuclear weapons capability,” London-based proliferation expert Mark Fitzpatrick said.

“It needs fissile material, weaponisation expertise and a delivery vehicle. On each of these, it has been making progress,” Fitzpatrick, a director at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank, said.

But even if Tehran decided to make such weapons it could still be years away from having nuclear-armed missiles, possibly giving diplomacy more opportunities to resolve a row which has the potential to spark a Middle East conflict.

World powers failed to make any progress in two rounds of talks with Iran half a year ago and no new meetings have been announced, leaving the diplomatic track apparently deadlocked.

“While difficult, Western capitals need to redouble their diplomatic effort to dissuade Iran from taking the nuclear weapons path,” Daryl Kimball, director of the Washington-based research and advocacy group Arms Control Association, said.

Kimball said Iran was closer to a capability to make atomic weapons but it “apparently has not yet made a strategic decision to do so and is still years, not months, away from building a deliverable nuclear arsenal”.


Britain last week said Iran had carried out covert tests of a missile that could carry a nuclear warhead, an allegation which Tehran swiftly denied.

During a military exercise last week, Iran test-fired 14 missiles on one day alone, including some it says are capable of hitting its arch foe Israel and U.S. bases in the Middle East.

Defence analyst Paul Beaver said he thought Iran aimed to have a “nuclear-capable weapons delivery system and then to be able to use that in its diplomatic and political posturing.”

He added: “How close are they? They are within years, rather than within months, I believe.”

Tehran says its missiles cannot carry nuclear payloads and insists it is enriching uranium for electricity production and medical purposes. Making atomic bombs would be a “strategic mistake” and would also not be allowed under Islam, it adds.

But in a defiant move that further fuelled Western unease about its intentions, Iran announced last month it would shift its production of higher-grade uranium to an underground bunker and triple output capacity.

It says it needs 20 percent refined uranium to make fuel for a medical research reactor after talks on a swap — under which other countries would have supplied the material — broke down.

Nuclear experts argue the step would bring it significantly closer to the 90 percent purity needed for nuclear weapons, compared with a level of around 3-5 percent usually required to power atomic energy plants.

Olli Heinonen, a former chief U.N. nuclear inspector, said he saw Iran “moving in the direction” of becoming a state that has the ability to make atomic weapons.

“In spite of economical, technological and political difficulties faced, it appears that Iran is determined to, at the very least, achieve a ‘virtual nuclear weapon state’ capability,” he told a U.S. Congress foreign affairs committee.

But former U.N. nuclear watchdog head Mohamed ElBaradei, Heinonen’s old boss who stepped down in 2009, criticised what he called the “hype” about the threat posed by Iran.

“During my time at the agency we haven’t seen a shred of evidence that Iran has been weaponising, in terms of building nuclear-weapons facilities and using enriched materials,” he was quoted as saying in The New Yorker magazine last month.


The decision to boost 20 percent uranium output was announced by Iran’s new atomic energy chief, who has been subjected to U.N. sanctions because of what Western officials said was his involvement in suspected atomic weapons research.

A nuclear scientist, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani was named head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation in February, after he was wounded in a 2010 bomb attack which Tehran blamed on Israel.

The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a U.S.-based think tank, said Abbasi-Davani’s extensive scientific background was “more suited to researching nuclear weapons” than building nuclear power reactors.

“Abbasi-Davani has regularly been linked to Iran’s efforts to make the nuclear weapon itself,” ISIS said.

Iran’s mission to the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was not available for comment, but Abbasi-Davani pledged last month to work with the agency and invited its head to tour Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The IAEA, the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog, is also voicing growing concern about possible military links to Iran’s nuclear activities and Western diplomats expect it to firm up its suspicions in reports due later this year.

For several years, the IAEA has been investigating Western intelligence reports indicating Iran has coordinated efforts to process uranium, test explosives at high altitude and revamp a ballistic missile cone so it could take a nuclear warhead.

Iran says the allegations are forged and baseless.

But its refusal to halt enrichment has led to four rounds of U.N. sanctions on the major oil producer, as well as tighter U.S. and European Union restrictions.

“Iran has developed an ambitious nuclear programme that is diffused in the nature of its distribution of sites and coordinated in its approach to achieve the capacity to field a nuclear arsenal,” Heinonen said.

“Its actions bear witness to a regime that intends to stay on this path,” said Heinonen, who is now a senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

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Pakistan Denies North Korea Bribe for Nuclear Technology
Chris Allbritton
(for personal use only)

A retired Pakistani general strongly denied on Thursday a report that he took $3 million in cash in exchange for helping smuggle nuclear technology to North Korea in the late 1990s, while the nation's foreign office called the story "preposterous."

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, had released a copy of a letter from a North Korean official dated 1998 detailing a $3 million payment to Pakistan's then-chief of army staff, General Jehangir Karamat.

"I was not in the loop for any kind of influence and I would have to be mad to sanction transfer of technology and for Dr Khan to listen to me," retired general Karamat told Reuters in an email. The story, he said, is "totally false."

In addition to the payment to Karamat, the letter says Lieutenant-General Zulfiqar Khan, also now retired, was given a half-million dollars and some jewellery. He also denied the accusation.

"I have not read the story," Khan told Reuters, "but of course it is wrong."

The Pakistan Army declined to comment. But Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua told reporters at a weekly press briefing that "such stories have a habit of recurring and my only comment is that this is totally baseless and preposterous."

Despite Pakistani protests, Western intelligence officials said they believed the letter was authentic, the Post reported.

It appears to be signed by North Korean Workers Party Secretary Jon Byong, the newspaper said, and other details match classified information previously unrevealed to the public.

In exchange for the money, generals Karamat and Khan were to help Khan give documents on a nuclear program to North Korea, the Post said.

The newspaper said it was unable to independently verify the account.

Khan has admitted giving centrifuges and drawings that helped North Korea begin making a uranium-based bomb. It already has nuclear weapons made with plutonium.

Former military leader General Pervez Musharraf wrote in his memoir that Pakistan and North Korea were involved in government-to-government cash transfers for North Korean ballistic missile technology in the late 1990s, but he insisted there was no official policy of reverse transfer of nuclear technology to Pyongyang.

"I assured the world that the proliferation was a one-man act and that neither the government of Pakistan nor the army was involved," Musharraf wrote. "This was the truth, and I could speak forcefully."

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C.  India

India Begins Work on Second Nuclear Submarine
The Asian Age
(for personal use only)

India has begun construction of its second nuclear submarine at a classified facility in Visakhapatnam.

Top sources told Deccan Chronicle that the keel of the project has been laid and the initial work is on full swing.

The project, launched just 24 months after the first nuclear submarine INS Arihant was commissioned - underlines the great strides the programme has made, sources said.

“The second programme took far lesser time than Arihant to reach the shipyard from the drawing board. This time we had a clear plan and we had learned a lot from our mistakes,” sources said.

Though exact details of the project's progress are not available, it is learnt that fabrication of the hull and body has begun. The reactor has been fabricated with the help of Russia.

The electronics and other systems are all indigenous. “Our DRDO laboratories have come up with inventions that are world class. We don't have to depend on anyone for sonars and such systems,” sources said.

The project is expected to be ready for sea trials by 2015. By that time India would have the Russian submarine on lease and INS Arihant deployed.

Sources, however, felt that the focus must also shift to surface vessels that need to be part of the flotilla that normally accompanies an Air Defence Ship.

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D.  Japan

Japan Clarifies Nuclear 'Stress Testing,'
BBC News
(for personal use only)

The Japanese government has tried to clarify its conditions for restarting dozens of nuclear reactors, idle since the 11 March tsunami and quake.

Officials said "stress tests" announced last week would be in two phases, and reactors would be allowed to restart after the first stage.

But the government still gave no timescale for the tests, or any further detail of what they might involve.

March's disaster wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Two-thirds of Japan's 54 reactors have remained inactive since the disaster, awaiting approval from officials and regulators to restart.

On the weekend, officials released the latest death toll from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami, saying 15,547 died and 5,344 were still missing.

Energy shortage fears

No-one has died as a result of the nuclear crisis, but the Fukushima meltdown has sparked a national review of energy policy and turned public opinion largely against nuclear power.

Continue reading the main story Nuclear crisis11 Mar: Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant struck by huge earthquake and tsunami16 Mar: 20km (11-mile) evacuation zone declared around plant17 Apr: Plant owner Tepco says crisis will be under control by end of the year20 May: Tepco President Masataka Shimizu resigns as firm posts losses of 1.25tn yen (£9.4bn; $15.3bn) for the past financial year2 Jun: Naoto Kan survives no-confidence vote over his handling of quake and nuclear crises
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the initial stage of the stress tests would examine whether the 35 reactors currently sitting idle could withstand big earthquakes and tsunamis.

After passing this assessment, the reactors could be restarted while they undergo more rigorous testing.

"Safety and a sense of security are the top priority," Mr Edano told a news conference.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who is under extreme pressure to resign, caused confusion last week by announcing the stress tests.

His announcement contradicted earlier advice from the government that the country's idle reactors were safe to restart.

Officials have yet to offer a timetable for the tests, sparking fears of major energy shortages in the coming months.

Japan has been marking four months since the disaster hit the north-eastern area of Honshu island.

Vigils have been held in temples in the worst-affected areas.

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Japan Still Needs Nuclear Power: Tokyo Governor
The Straits Times
(for personal use only)

TOKYO'S outspoken Governor Shintaro Ishihara says Japan still needs atomic power, despite what he expects will be 'some hysterical reaction' to the ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis.

He also believes pacifist Japan should acquire nuclear weapons as a deterrent in what he considers a dangerous neighbourhood, near North Korea, China and Russia, although he stresses Japan should never use them.

The 78-year-old conservative politician, well known for his nationalistic stance and often provocative remarks, was speaking with AFP ahead of the city's formal bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics, expected as early as this week.

Mr Ishihara, who was recently re-elected governor of the megacity, said Japan would need nuclear power, despite the disaster Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) is trying to contain at Fukushima, north-east of the capital. Japan has struggled to stabilise the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out reactor cooling systems, sparking meltdowns, explosions and radiation leaks into the air, soil and sea.

'As long as it's managed properly, nuclear can produce power at a very low cost,' the veteran politician said. 'I expect that some hysterical reaction against nuclear power plants will emerge around election time.' But he added, 'Why can't Japan do the same thing as France?', which generates more than three-quarters of its power with atomic energy.

Since the crisis hit, all but 19 of Japan's 54 reactors have stayed offline, spelling a power crunch for the resource-poor Asian economic giant which used to meet about 30 per cent of its electricity needs with nuclear power.

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Japanese Gov't to Launch Two-Stage Nuke Reactor Safety Checks
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The Japanese government said Monday it plans to launch a series of two-stage stress test to determine whether the nation's nuclear power reactors, either idled for regular checkups or taken offline following the nuclear crisis triggered by the March 11 twin disasters, are safe enough to resume regular operations.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the decision on the restarting of those plants currently idled would be based on primary safety assessments.

Following this, all nuclear reactors will be subject to a second round of stress tests, similar to those conducted by the European Union in the wake of the quake and tsunami-triggered disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March, Japan's top government spokesperson said at a news conference Monday.

"The government is making utmost efforts to tackle the nuclear issue, but we have to also sincerely respond to criticism that we are behind the curve," Yukio Edano told reporters.

The government has been subject to harsh criticism following Prime Minister Naoto Kan's sudden announcement of the additional stress tests last week, which took authorities in some local municipalities by surprise as approval had already been given for them to fire up their idled reactors.

The initial announcement revealed divisions in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Kan on the issue of restarting the nation's reactors and ran contrary to Industry Minister Banri Kaieda's prior request to bring reactors in the southwest of Japan back online.

Monday's announcement was aimed at setting confusion caused by Kan's abrupt announcement and allaying public concerns about nuclear safety by rolling out a unified governmental plan.

"We apologize to the people in Saga (prefecture) for all the confusion and worry that we have caused," Edano said, highlighting that the new plan was agreed to by the prime minister and Kaieda, who had previously given approval for the restarting of the Genkai reactors in Saga prefecture.

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Tokyo Electric Says Fukushima Nuclear Cooling Uninterrupted by Earthquake
Toshiro Hasegawa and Toru Fujioka
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Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported cooling operations at its crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant were proceeding without interruption after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the region today.

The utility, known as Tepco, is assessing the impact of the temblor at the plant and its other facilities in the region, Satoshi Watanabe, a spokesman, said by phone.

Tsunami advisories, which indicate the possibility of surges up to 50 centimeters (20 inches), were issued for Japan’s Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures by the Japan Meteorological Agency after the quake, which measured as strong as four on the Japanese intensity scale of one to seven.

Coastal communities in the three prefectures were devastated on March 11 by a magnitude-9 quake and tsunami that left more than 24,000 dead or missing.

Tohoku Electric Power Co. reported its facilities in the region were undamaged, including the shut-down nuclear plants at Onagawa and Higashidori, spokesman Seiichi Kato said by phone.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported the temblor struck at 10 a.m. local time, and revised data showed it hit 35 kilometers (22 miles) deep offshore 409 kilometers northeast of Tokyo.

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E.  Nuclear Energy

France to Analyze Effect of Cutting Nuclear Energy, Echos Says
Helene Fouquet
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The French government will form a group of experts this week to assess the consequences of reducing the proportion of nuclear energy in the national power supply, Les Echos reported, citing Energy Minister Eric Besson.

The committee will analyze the effects on energy-supply independence and on the environment should France choose to fully abandon civil nuclear energy by 2040 or 2050, or scale it back to half of France’s power-generating capacity, the daily newspaper cited Besson as telling journalists. The group will publish a report by the end of the year, Les Echos said.

Socialist Party contenders for the 2012 presidential elections have said they may include nuclear energy reduction in their platform, Les Echos reported.

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Russian Reactor Reconnected to Power Grid After Shutdown
RIA Novosti
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A reactor at the Balakovskaya nuclear power plant (NPP) in central Russia was restarted and reconnected to power grid early on Sunday after a safety shutdown, a spokesman for the plant said.

"The reactor was reconnected to the power grid and restarted in compliance with regulations for safety operation," the source said. "Radiation levels at the station and surrounding territories remain unchanged, at the normal level."

The plant's fourth reactor shut down automatically late on Thursday, when a thunderstorm on the border of the Saratov and the Samara regions damaged two power supply lines serving the reactor. The lines were fixed shortly after midnight on Sunday.

Nuclear specialists earlier said such safety shutdowns are a routine occurrence.

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South Korea's New Nuclear Reactor Set to Start Operation in Dec.
Yonhap News Agency
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South Korea's new nuclear power reactor under construction in the country's southeastern region is expected to start commercial operation in December ahead of schedule, its builder said Sunday.

Daewoo Engineering & Construction Co. originally planned to dedicate the New Wolsong-1 nuclear reactor located near this historic city, about 370 kilometers southeast of Seoul, starting in March next year.

"The test run of the nuclear reactor is coming to a close," a company official said. "It is expected to be complete by yearend, enabling the reactor to generate electricity from the end of this year."

Daewoo Engineering & Construction said it plans to get an imprimatur from the government to operate the reactor, which will have a capacity of 1 million kilowatts per hour.

It will be South Korea's 22nd nuclear power reactor. South Korea relies on nuclear power reactors for roughly 36 percent of its power output, making it the fifth-largest producer of nuclear energy in the world.

Daewoo Engineering & Construction said it will also complete another nuclear reactor, the New Wolsong-2, by the end of next year, a month ahead of schedule.

Daewoo Engineering & Construction and the country's operator of nuclear reactors, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP), said that the New Wolsong-1 reactor has quakeproof and other safety features.

The reactor will be safe even if an earthquake with the magnitude of 6.5 takes place right below it, they said.

Concern over the safety of atomic power generation has been running high in South Korea after March's devastating earthquake and tsunami crippled Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant, resulting in potentially dangerous radiation leakage.

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Pakistan Capable of Capturing Multi-Trillion Nuclear Energy Market
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Pakistan has a significant role in the new nuclear order and it should fully prepare itself to capture $ 3 trillion nuclear energy market in years ahead. “Only nine countries including Pakistan have the capability to contribute to nuclear energy needs of 122 countries which would solely depend on atomic energy in view of severe oil shortage in year 2018,” Renowned Defence Analyst and Director of South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, Dr. Maria Sultan said here on Saturday.

Discussing on the topic “Future of Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme and the Nuclear World Order” during an ‘Intellectual Discourse’ organized at National Press Club here, she pointed out that after Indo-US Civil Nuclear Treaty, Pakistan has a also a signified share in the world nuclear energy market.

Under the treaty, India, a non-signatory of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) alongwith Pakistan and Israel, has technically and legally been allowed to export nuclear technology to the member states of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), she added.

Dr. Maria Sultan opined,” This change of rule has also given us an opportunity to take advantage of situation to capture the nuclear energy market, especially in the Middle East, as we have required skilled human resource, quality assurance and design ability.”

Responding to a question, she said that Pakistan’s nuclear assets and installations are safe as foolproof arrangements have been made for their safety.

“Our military and civil nuclear sites have been protected by the air defence and missile systems,” she added.

Dr. Maria Sultan said although, our civil nuclear installations are safe in view of natural calamities including earthquake and floods, however, the safety standards should be reviewed after the nuclear disaster in Japan following the Tsunami and floods in March this year.

She especially mentioned about the safety standards of civil nuclear installations at Chashma and Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) which meet all the requirements of international standards.

To yet another query, she said our nuclear power generation capacity will be touching 8,000 MW figure by the year 2030.

She declared that Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had formulated Pakistan’s nuclear policy in 1968 and decided to make nuclear weapons at a meeting held in Multan in 1972.

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China Moving Toward Establishing its First Law on Nuclear Power
The Denki Shimbun
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Chairman Zhang Huazhu of the China Nuclear Energy Association (CNEA) revealed in an interview with the Denki Shimbun that the association would compile a draft of China's first Atomic Energy Act by December. Following the accident at the Fukushima I nuclear power station of Tokyo Electric Power Co., Inc., there has been increased public attention in China to the country's own nuclear power policy. The outline of China's basic law on nuclear power is expected to take shape by the end of this year after having been shelved for nearly 30 years.

CNEA is currently developing a draft bill in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Ministry of Environmental Protection and other relevant Chinese ministries and agencies. While China's nuclear safety regulations are mainly based on ordinances issued by the State Council (equivalent of the Japanese Cabinet), there are currently no laws in China that are comparable to the Atomic Energy Basic Law of Japan.

In his comment on the draft bill being developed, Zhang stressed, "The leaderships of the Chinese government and political parties are placing a special focus on safety after the Fukushima accident." He indicated that additional laws concerning safeguards against earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters may be developed in the future with increased focus on nuclear safety by learning from Fukushima.

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German Parliament Backs Nuclear Exit by 2022
Agence France-Presse
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The German parliament sealed plans Friday to phase out nuclear energy by 2022, making the country the first major industrial power to take the step in the wake of the disaster at Japan's Fukushima plant.

The nuclear exit scheme cleared its final hurdle in the Bundesrat upper house, which represents the 16 regional states, after the legislation passed the Bundestag lower house with an overwhelming majority last week.

Germany's seven oldest reactors were already switched off after Japan's massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, causing reactors to overheat and radiation to leak.

A further reactor has been shut for years because of technical problems.

The nine reactors currently on line are due to be turned off between 2015 and 2022, an even faster pace than envisaged when Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the decision in May.

Polls indicate a large majority of Germans oppose nuclear power due to fears of a reactor catastrophe and unresolved issues on the long-term storage of highly radioactive atomic waste.

After Fukushima hundreds of thousands of Germans hit the streets in anti-nuclear protests around the country, and Merkel's then pro-nuclear stance contributed to a string of poor results in state elections this year.

The move marks a dramatic u-turn by Merkel and her centre-right government which last year had approved plans to extend the operation of the country's 17 reactors.

The new premier of the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Winfried Kretschmann of the Greens, who was elected in March in part for his long-time opposition to nuclear power, said Merkel's "radical change in policy" allowed the "historic" legislation to pass.

The Bundesrat also approved measures to fill the gap left by nuclear power, on which Germany relies for about 22 percent of its energy needs.

These include building new coal and gas power plants, although Berlin is sticking to its target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, and by 80-95 percent by 2050.

It also signed off on expanding wind energy, in a bid to boost the share of the country's power needs generated by renewable energies to 35 percent by 2020 from 17 percent at present.

But it stopped plans to grant higher subsidies for renovating residential buildings to improve energy efficiency, saying they would cost the cashapped states too dearly.

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