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Nuclear News - 7/26/2011
PGS Nuclear News, July 26, 2011
Compiled By: Eli Ginsberg

A.  Iran
    1. Iran Urges Russia to Launch Bushehr Nuclear Plant in "Specified Deadline", Xinhua News Agency (7/24/2011)
    2. Iranian Nuclear Scientist Shot Dead, Agence France-Presse (7/23/2011)
    1. US Invites North Korea to Talks on Nuclear Impasse, BBC News (7/24/2011)
    2. US 'Encouraged' By Korea Nuclear Talks, Agence France-Presse (7/23/2011)
C.  India
    1. South Korea, India Sign Nuclear Power Cooperation Pact, Yonhap News Agency (7/25/2011)
    2. 'Rising' India Still Reluctant to Lead, Agence France-Presse (7/24/2011)
    1. IAEA Chief Visits Japan's Stricken Nuclear Plant, Agence France-Presse (7/25/2011)
    2. IAEA Chief Says no Progress on Syria, Associated Press (7/23/2011)
    3. IAEA Sees "Significant Progress" on Japan Atom Crisis, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (7/22/2011)
E.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Germany’s Power Prices Seen Rising on Nuclear Exit, FTD Says, Bloomberg (7/25/2011)
    2. Nuclear Energy Still the Cheapest Low-Carbon Energy Source, Budapest Business Journal (7/22/2011)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. U.S.-ASEAN Regional Forum Cooperation, U.S. Department of State (7/24/2011)
    2. From Budget Cuts to Dirty Bombs, Op-Ed Contributors: Kenneth N. Luongo and Kenneth C. Brill, New York Times (7/22/2011)

A.  Iran

Iran Urges Russia to Launch Bushehr Nuclear Plant in "Specified Deadline"
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

A senior Iranian lawmaker urged Russia to launch Bushehr nuclear power plant within the specified deadline, the English language satellite Press TV reported Sunday.

The Islamic Republic will accept no excuses from Russia, if Moscow fails to launch Bushehr nuclear power plant within the specified deadline, Deputy Chairman of Foreign Policy and National Security Commission of Iran's Majlis (parliament) Hossein Ebrahimi said.

"According to the contract, the Russian company is bound to fulfill its undertakings with respect to the completion and launch of the plant," Ebrahimi was quoted as saying on Saturday.

"The Islamic Republic will no longer accept any ambiguity or justification (for delay) with regard to the launch of Bushehr nuclear plant, and nuclear-generated electricity should enter the grid at the specified time," he said.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Russia was awaiting Iran's decision on a launch date for the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

The spokesman said Bushehr would start operating "in the nearest future," but the exact date of the launch was still unclear.

"Moscow wants to receive a more specific request from the Iranian colleagues on when it will be convenient for them to start the project," the Interfax news agency quoted the diplomat as saying.

In June, Russia's Foreign Ministry said Bushehr would become operational in early August. Preparations for the launch have progressed according to the plan.

Also in the month, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi said that the Bushehr nuclear power plant will join the national grid late in August.

The Iranian lawmaker Ebrahimi said that the mutual contract requires no specific request by Tehran, and Moscow should finish the work within the stipulated deadline, according to Press TV.

In May, the first nuclear chain reaction at the plant was started.

Construction began on the Bushehr plant in 1975 by several German companies. However, work halted when the United States imposed an embargo on hi-tech supplies to Iran after the 1979 revolution. Russia signed a contract with Iran to complete the construction in 1998.

Completion of the plant's construction has been postponed several times due to technical and financial challenges and pressure from the United States.

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Iranian Nuclear Scientist Shot Dead
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

A nuclear scientist was shot dead on Saturday by unknown assailants on a motorcycle, the latest expert with links to Iran's controversial atomic programme to be targeted, local media reported.

"A physics professor and nuclear scientist was assassinated a few hours ago in front of his house in Tehran," Mehr news agency reported at 1430 GMT.

The ISNA news agency identified the victim as Dariush Rezaei, 35, an expert with links to the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI). Fars news agency said he was also associated with the defence ministry.

Top provincial security official Safar Ali Baratlou told the ILNA news agency that no one had yet been arrested in connection with the shooting.

Mehr reported that Rezaie's wife was also wounded in the attack and rushed to hospital.

It said Rezaei studied nuclear engineering in Tehran's Amir Kabir University, had a degree in neutron physics and undertook research for the AEOI.

Several Iranian nuclear scientists have disappeared in recent years or been targeted in attacks the Islamic republic has blamed on the United States and Israel, which suspect Tehran's atomic programme masks a nuclear weapons drive.

Last November 29, Majid Shahriari was killed in the capital when men on motorcycles attached a bomb to his car, and current nuclear chief Fereydoon Abbasi Davani survived a similar assassination attempt on the same day.

Abbasi Davani had been targeted by UN Security Council sanctions under Resolution 1747 adopted in March 2007. He was identified as a senior defence ministry and armed forces logistics scientist.

Another top Iranian nuclear scientist, Masoud Ali Mohammadi, was killed in a bomb blast on January 12, 2010, which Tehran blamed on "mercenaries" in the pay of the US and Israeli intelligence services.

Following the attacks, Tehran vowed to boost security for its nuclear scientists.

Earlier this year the authorities announced they had arrested the man behind the bombing that killed Ali Mohammadi, saying they had cracked a network working for the Israeli spy agency Mossad.

Iranian leaders have also blamed arch-foes Israel and Washington for the unexplained disappearances of several of their military officials and nuclear scientists in recent years, and for a computer attack by the Stuxnet malware in the summer of 2010 against its centrifuges enriching uranium.

Iran is at loggerheads with the West over its nuclear programme, and the most recent round of talks between Tehran and the world powers broke down in Istanbul in January.

The Islamic republic is currently under four sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.

The United States and the 27-member European Union have also imposed other unilateral punitive measures against Tehran.

Iran, however, remains adamant that it will push ahead with its controversial enrichment activities, which can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the fissile material for an atomic warhead.

Tehran insists it will use the enriched uranium to fuel its future nuclear power plants, and that its atomic programme is entirely peaceful.

In June, Abbasi Davani announced plans to triple Iran's capacity to enrich uranium to 20 percent purity, which Tehran says will be used to fuel its sole medical research reactor in the capital.

Iran began its higher-grade enrichment in February 2010, following the collapse of negotiations with the West over the acquisition of nuclear fuel.

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US Invites North Korea to Talks on Nuclear Impasse
BBC News
(for personal use only)

A North Korean envoy has been invited to the US this week for exploratory talks on resuming international nuclear negotiations, Washington has said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said an invitation had been extended to Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan to visit New York.

There was no immediate comment from the North on the talks offer.

This week North and South Korea's nuclear envoys and foreign ministers held unexpected talks.

The North abandoned the talks on its nuclear programme in 2008.

The secretive communist state, which has technically been at war with the South since the war which split Korea in the 1950s, is gripped by a food crisis and labouring under UN sanctions.

'At the crossroads'

Mrs Clinton stressed that any negotiations must be meaningful.

"We do not intend to reward the North just for returning to the table," she said.

"We will not give them anything new for actions they have already agreed to take. And we have no appetite for pursuing protracted negotiations that will only lead us right back to where we have already been."

The North's Foreign Minister, Pak Ui-chun, said in comments released on Sunday that the Korean peninsula now stood at "the crossroads of detente and the vicious cycle of escalating tension".

The countries involved, he added, must "make the best use of [the] opportunity of dialogue and make a bold decision to settle the fundamental issue".

South Korea's nuclear envoy said last week he had had "constructive" talks with his North Korean counterpart on the sidelines of the Asean summit in Bali.

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US 'Encouraged' By Korea Nuclear Talks
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

The United States said Saturday it was "encouraged" by surprise talks between North and South Korea over Pyongyang's nuclear programme, but remained cool on resuming disarmament talks.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told regional foreign ministers at an Asian security forum in Indonesia that the onus remained squarely on the North to prove its sincerity before the stalled six-party talks could resume.

"We are encouraged by the recent North-South meeting that took place on the margins of the ASEAN Regional Forum, but we remain firm that in order for six-party talks to resume, North Korea must take steps to improve North-South relations," she said in prepared remarks.

In a joint statement released later Saturday, the United States, South Korea and Japan also said Pyongyang must "address" its secretive uranium enrichment programme before the talks, in limbo since December 2008, could re-start.

The allies issued a joint statement after their foreign ministers met on the Indonesian island of Bali saying the uranium issue was among the key obstacles to the resumption of the six-nation dialogue.

"The ministers ... agreed that North Korea's uranium enrichment programme must also be addressed in order to allow for the resumption of the six-party talks," they said.

The statement came after surprise meetings between the two Koreas' senior nuclear envoys in Bali on Friday and their foreign ministers on Saturday, in which both sides spoke of the need for the six-party process to resume.

The six-nation talks, involving the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia, are aimed at convincing the North to give up its nuclear programme in return for diplomatic and economic rewards.

But in April 2009 Pyongyang formally abandoned the six-party talks, a month before staging its second atomic weapons test. In September of that year it announced it had reached the final stages of enriching uranium.

The North, using plutonium extracted from its Yongbyon reactor, conducted its first nuclear test in 2006. It is believed to have enough plutonium for six to eight atomic bombs.

The North then revealed an apparently operational uranium enrichment plant at its Yongbyon atomic complex to visiting US experts on November 12 last year.

Pyongyang says its new operation is intended to fuel a nuclear power plant, but senior US and other officials fear it could easily be reconfigured to produce weapons-grade uranium to augment the country's plutonium stockpile.

The United States said in December that North Korea had "at least one other" uranium enrichment site than that disclosed to the US experts, saying the issue raised concerns.

This week's rare and unexpected contacts between senior officials from the two Koreas gave fresh hope that the conditions had been met for a resumption of the six-party dialogue.

South Korean nuclear envoy Wi Sung-Lac and his counterpart from the North, Ri Yong-Ho, met for more than two hours at a luxury hotel in Bali on Friday, on the sidelines of a week of wide-ranging talks among Asia-Pacific ministers.

Both emerged saying they hoped to re-start stalled six-party talks.

The South's foreign minister, Kim Sung-Hwan, then briefly met his North Korean counterpart, Pak Ui-Chun, on Saturday morning ahead of a regional security dialogue, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

But the joint US-Japan-South statement made clear the Bali talks were only the beginning and "sincere and constructive inter-Korean dialogue" was essential before the wider multinational contact group could reconvene.

"The ministers welcomed the inter-Korean dialogue on denuclearisation held in Bali ... and they emphasised that the inter-Korean dialogue should be a sustained process going forward," they said.

Dongguk University professor Kim Yong-Hyun told AFP in Seoul the North-South meetings in Bali were a "first step toward the six-party talks", but emphasised that the uranium issue was a "very serious obstacle".

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C.  India

South Korea, India Sign Nuclear Power Cooperation Pact
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

South Korea and India signed a nuclear energy cooperation agreement Monday after a year of negotiations, paving the way for Seoul to export atomic power plants to the fast-developing nation.

The pact, signed after summit talks between President Lee Myung-bak and India's President Pratibha Patil, is a requirement and provides legal ground for South Korea's participation in India's atomic power plant construction project.

India now has 20 power-generating nuclear reactors in operation, six under construction and plans to build about 40 more by 2032. Russia, France and the U.S. have been active in India's nuclear power plant construction projects.

Seoul's state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) has been seeking cooperation with Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited to get into India's nuclear power plant construction market.

South Korea has been stepping up efforts to export nuclear power plants since Korean firms won a US$18.6 billion project in late 2009 to build four atomic power plants in the United Arab Emirates after beating their U.S., Japanese and French rivals.

During the summit talks, Lee asked Patil for India's cooperation for South Korea to get into the nuclear power plant business, the presidential office said in a statement. Lee also expressed hope for South Korea's participation in India's infrastructure construction projects, it said.

The nuclear pact was one of the most noticeable outcomes of Monday's summit talks.

Patil arrived in Seoul on Sunday for a four-day state visit that also includes a visit to a bronze bust sculpture of Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore that was recently erected in central Seoul by the two countries to mark the 150th birth anniversary of the late poet.

She is also scheduled to visit a research complex of Samsung Group.

During the summit talks, Lee and Patil shared the view that cooperation between the two countries have been enhanced in all areas and agreed to further expand cooperation in political, security and defense industry sectors, the presidential office statement said.

They also agreed to improve the free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, also known as the comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA), by reflecting changes in the trade environment since the trade pact went into effect in January last year, the statement said.

The two sides agreed to work together to conclude negotiations on an aviation pact, a maritime shipment accord and a double-taxation prevention treaty at an early date in a way that is beneficial to both nations, the statement said.

The leaders also agreed to cooperate closely on a series of events to mark the year of cultural exchanges between the two countries this year and carry out projects to promote public understanding and perceptions of each other between the two countries, it said.

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'Rising' India Still Reluctant to Lead
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

A US challenge to India to take a more assertive role on the global stage runs counter to a decades-old foreign policy that has nearly always valued diplomatic caution over strategic ambition.

Since independence in 1947, India has sporadically flexed its diplomatic, economic and military muscles, but such instances have been largely restricted to its immediate neighbours.

During her visit here last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it was time for India to wield its growing economic and political clout further outside its borders and help "shape the future" of the Asia region and beyond.

"This is not a time when any of us can afford to look inward at the expense of looking outward," Clinton said. "This is a time to lead."

While there is suspicion of what is widely seen as a US strategic imperative for India to become a counter-weight to China, many experts agree the time has come for the world's largest democracy to make its voice heard more forcefully.

This is especially true, they argue, if India wants to prove its credentials for securing a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

"The 1991 economic reforms and the 1998 nuclear tests transformed India's place in the world. We must acknowledge that and speak out more often," said Lalit Mansingh, a former foreign secretary and Indian ambassador to the United States.

All too often, India's voice is muffled by the initiative-dampening nature of its complex coalition politics and a long non-interventionist tradition that is proving hard to shed.

Mansingh cited India's lukewarm response to the pro-democracy movements that have convulsed the Arab world as an example of its preference for risk-averse diplomacy.

"I think India should have been much more welcoming of the Arab Spring," he said.

"The fight against dictatorship is very much in line with our democratic traditions, but we prefer to wait and watch. It is the Indian way," he added.

In a recent issue of Foreign Policy magazine, C. Raja Mohan, a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, argued that while India was keen to "increase its weight in global governance" it would only do so on its own terms and at its own pace.

"The United States wants to test whether India is a responsible stakeholder in negotiations on issues ranging from climate change to international trade," Mohan said.

"India is prepared to engage on these issues and participate more fully in global decision-making bodies on the basis of its own self-interest, but is not prepared to take tests from anyone," he added.

Senior Indian civil servants remain fiercely protective of India's long-held policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, insisting that it is a better guarantor of influence in the long term.

"A passive approach is not necessarily a weak approach," said one senior official.

But the "self-interest" cited by Mohan is inevitably pushing India towards a more proactive stance, driven by the need to source raw materials for its energy-hungry economy and tap new consumers for its manufactured goods.

In both areas, it increasingly finds itself in competition with regional heavyweight China -- already a permanent UN Security Council member and an intimidating military and economic power.

China is mineral-rich Africa's top trading partner, with bilateral trade totalling $126.9 billion last year, and has extended its influence into India's immediate neighbourhood, notably in Sri Lanka and Nepal.

"India has already ceded a lot of ground in Africa to China," said Sreeram Sundar Chaulia, vice dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs, who stressed the need to invest more energy in building relationships, whether in Africa, Latin America, or Asia.

"India must realise that economic growth at home is not enough to win you influence. Furthermore, with a slowdown in Europe and the US, it needs to think about where its markets will come from in the future," he said.

As for Clinton's appeal, which was for a more general leadership on issues like human rights and the environment, Chaulia voiced frustration with India's traditional wait-and-watch mindset.

"India can and should be more willing to make its presence felt on issues that matter," he said.

"We need to contest the orthodoxy that says, 'do as little as possible'".

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IAEA Chief Visits Japan's Stricken Nuclear Plant
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

IAEA Chief Visits Japan's Stricken Nuclear Plant, AFP, 7/25/2011
The head of the UN atomic watchdog agency headed for Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant on Monday to survey efforts to contain the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was to wear a radiation protection suit on his visit to study Japan's progress under its "roadmap" to contain the accident.

"I would like to assess what the IAEA can do to help," the former senior Japanese diplomat told reporters at a train station near the site.

"I would like to hear from the crews on the ground about the hardships they go through and their feelings as they do their work day in and day out," he was quoted as saying by public broadcaster NHK.

The Fukushima plant was battered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and suffered meltdowns and explosions in the days that followed.

It still releases radioactive material into the environment and has destroyed the livelihoods of tens of thousands of residents who have been evacuated from a 20-kilometre (12-mile) zone and hotspots beyond.

The IAEA criticised Japan's response in a report in June, especially its failure to implement the agency's convention on dealing with nuclear emergencies.

The convention sets out rules for cooperation between the IAEA and states that may need emergency help with security and communication.

A preliminary version of the document, presented earlier in Tokyo, said Japan had underestimated the hazard posed by tsunamis to nuclear plants, but praised Tokyo's response to the March 11 disaster as "exemplary".

Japan and operator Tokyo Electric Power Company are trying to bring the plant's overheating reactors to stable "cold shutdown" by January.

Japan's embattled Prime Minister Naoto Kan has also announced "stress tests", modeled after a similar programme in Europe, for all of the 54 nuclear plants in Japan, the majority of which are currently offline for checks.

Kan, who has resisted weeks of intense pressure to resign soon, has spoken in favour of a nuclear power phase-out in the quake-prone island nation, where atomic power until recently met about 30 percent of energy demand.

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IAEA Chief Says no Progress on Syria
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

International Atomic Energy Agency experts met with Syrian officials recently, but received no information that would change the IAEA's assessment that Damascus tried to secretly build a plutonium-producing reactor, the agency's head said Friday.

"There was nothing concluded" from the talks earlier this month, which arouse from a pledge by Damascus to cooperate with an agency probe, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told The Associated Press.

He said it was now up to Syria to disprove the agency's assessment that a target destroyed in 2007 by Israeli warplanes was a nearly finished reactor built clandestinely, and meant to produce plutonium, which can be used to arm nuclear warheads .

"We have done our jobs," Amano said. "If there is further cooperation it is very nice. If not, ... the conclusion is there."

The U.N. Security Council met in closed session on July 14 to discuss the IAEA finding and some Western ambassadors said afterward that the agency's assessment has raised concerns the country violated its nonproliferation obligations.

The IAEA has tried in vain since 2008 to follow up on strong evidence that the site in the Syrian desert bombed by Israel was a nearly finished reactor built with North Korea's help.

Syria has said the facility was a non-nuclear military site.

The IAEA resolution that reported Syria to the Security Council on June 9 expressed "serious concern" over "Syria's lack of cooperation with the IAEA Director General's repeated requests for access to additional information and locations as well as Syria's refusal to engage substantively with the Agency on the nature of the Dair Alzour site."

Asked whether the popular uprising in Syria contributed to the lack of progress at the July meeting between Syrian and IAEA officials, Amano said the Syrians "didn't have an explanation to that effect, but our understanding is that they were too busy."

He said the agency was still hoping for cooperation from Damascus, but "if they don't prove otherwise, we continue to be very confident with our conclusion" that the site Israel targeted was a secret nuclear reactor.

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IAEA Sees "Significant Progress" on Japan Atom Crisis
Fredrik Dahl
(for personal use only)

Significant progress has been made in efforts to contain and stabilise the situation at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, the head of the United Nations atomic agency said on Friday.

In a statement issued ahead of a visit to Japan next week, Director General Yukiya Amano of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Tokyo Electric Power Co's plan to achieve a cold shutdown by early 2012 "could be possible."

Japan's government said on Tuesday it was on track with efforts to take control of Fukushima but cautioned that a final clean up of the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986 would take many years.

Tokyo's update on progress to shut down reactors at the plant came four months after a massive earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems at the complex and triggered a series of core meltdowns and explosions.

The Fukushima crisis has prompted a rethink of nuclear power plans worldwide, as well as plans for stricter checks on atomic facilities to avoid any repeat of the disaster.

A cold shutdown means that the uranium at the core is no longer capable of boiling off the water used as a coolant.

Amano stated that "the IAEA welcomes the significant progress the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has achieved overall in implementing its 'Road Map' to contain and stabilise the situation," the Vienna-based agency said in a statement.

Amano, a veteran Japanese diplomat, said TEPCO was ahead of the road map schedule in some areas, without giving details.

"Based on their progress to date, the IAEA notes that their plan to achieve 'cold shutdown' by early next year could be possible," the statement said.

Amano will visit the Fukushima plant on July 25.

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E.  Nuclear Energy

Germany’s Power Prices Seen Rising on Nuclear Exit, FTD Says
(for personal use only)

Electricity prices in Germany may rise by 175 euros ($250) a year for a household of three after the phasing-out of nuclear power, the Financial Times Deutschland reported, citing a study by the RWI research institute.

The power price could rise by 5 cents per kilowatt-hour, rather than the government’s estimated 1 cent, as a result of the nuclear phase-out and greater reliance on alternative energy sources such as wind and solar, the newspaper reported.

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Nuclear Energy Still the Cheapest Low-Carbon Energy Source
Budapest Business Journal
(for personal use only)

If international low-carbon targets are observed, nuclear energy is by far the cheapest and most efficient choice, a report released by financial advisory KPMG said.

Even with anti-nuclear sentiment still at a high following the disaster in Japan’s Fukushima power plant, the technology remains the cheapest and most efficient source of energy. A report released by global financial consultancy KPMG states that the world’s rising energy demand will primarily be covered through the use of fossil fuels. However, if governments are serious about ongoing drives to reduce harmful emissions, they will have to look to other sources, too.

Regardless of the discussion surrounding the sustainable production of energy, KPMG notes that the technologies are lacking in efficiency and are also highly expensive. In contrast, nuclear remains the best low-carbon solution.

As the company’s study points out modern nuclear units have a lifespan of 60-80 years and only use 20% of their operating expenses for the procurement of fuels opposed to the 80% rate common for conventional plants.

This leads to the expense side of nuclear power coming to €60 to €115 for a megawatt hour of electricity. For offshore wind, the sum comes to €150 to €230. The figures only reflect prices at the power station gates and do not include expenses stemming from network operation.

The document also highlights the additional disadvantages linked to green technologies. Solar panels usually operate with an efficiency of 10% but even with the more expensive and sophisticated varieties, the total only goes as high as 20%.

In the case of wind, even though the fuel as such is free, the initial expenses are very high due to changing wind speeds and fluctuation in output. Biomass is unable to produce the necessary amount of electricity, especially in poorer countries, where food supplies can be jeopardized by energy crops.

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F.  Links of Interest

U.S.-ASEAN Regional Forum Cooperation
U.S. Department of State
(for personal use only)

Return to Menu

From Budget Cuts to Dirty Bombs
Op-Ed Contributors: Kenneth N. Luongo and Kenneth C. Brill
New York Times
(for personal use only)

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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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