Mongolia's nuclear energy authority and Japan's Atomic Energy Agency discussed nonproliferation and other issues during a two-day meeting that ended Wednesday.
More than 40 specialists from Mongolia, Japan and representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency attended the meeting.
Ts. Damdinsuren, a senior Mongolian nuclear official, said Ulan Bator has not changed its atomic plans despite the severe nuclear accident that occurred in Japan's Fukushima Daichi plant after the March earthquake and tsunami.
He said Mongolia has rich coal reserves, but using nuclear energy is favorable because fossil fuel could harm human health and the environment.
Mongolia has plans to begin construction of a nuclear plant next year that is expected to be operational in 2017, he added.
A senior Japanese nuclear engineer said Japan would be glad to provide technology and safety control support for Mongolia's peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Mongolia has rich uranium resources with 60,000 verified tons.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-08/11/c_131041589.htm
2. Lower House Starts Debate on Japan-Jordan Nuke Plant Pact
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The lower house committee on foreign affairs on Wednesday began debate on whether to approve an agreement between Japan and Jordan that would pave the way for exporting nuclear plants to the Middle Eastern country.
The upper house approved the plan in March, and the lower chamber had been slated to vote on it in April. However, the vote was delayed because the opposition Liberal Democratic Party was against the idea, citing the government's handling of the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (9501) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Among those seeking to win a construction contract with Jordan within the year are a consortium comprising Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011) and major French nuclear power firm Areva SA, as well as Russian and Canadian companies.
Available at: http://e.nikkei.com/e/fr/tnks/Nni20110810D10SS403.htm
As part of a worldwide program to properly dispose of potentially dangerous radioactive material, the United States approached the Government of Sri Lanka to offer assistance to remove two radioactive sources no longer in use.
The U.S. Embassy and the Government of Sri Lanka have discussed this technical assistance, but have not reached any agreement. On August 3, the Sri Lankan Cabinet decided to appoint a committee to study the proposal.
The proposal does not provide any assistance on nuclear technology, but would simply safely dispose of potentially dangerous radioactive material.
As part of its worldwide program, the United States provides assistance to a number of countries to eliminate radioactive sources which could become a danger to public health in the future. Further Detail s on the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI):
- President Obama pledged to lead an international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years. To do this, the National Nuclear Security Administration established the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) in the Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation.
- GTRI is a cooperative program that provides international support for countries' national programs to identify, secure, recover and/or dispose of vulnerable high-risk nuclear and radioactive materials that pose a threat to the international community.
- The GTRI mission is to reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radioactive material located at civilian sites worldwide.
Available at: http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2011/08/04/us-assistance-remove-radioactive-sources
4. CARICOM Calls for Immediate Halt to Radioactive Shipment through Caribbean Waters
The Leewards Times
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Chairman of the Caribbean Community CARICOM, Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis has called for an immediate halt to the transit of radioactive material through the Caribbean Sea; a practice he said is “unacceptable and injurious.” In a statement condemning the practice, Dr. Denzil Douglas said that it has become intolerable to the governments and people of the Caribbean, as it compromises its rich but fragile ecosystem, and puts at risk “the very existence of the People of the Caribbean of the Region.”
The call to halt the transit of the waste through the Caribbean Sea has come in the wake of a new shipment of Vitrified High Level Waste that will leave the United Kingdom, this week, for Japan through the Caribbean.
Dr. Douglas said that CARICOM remains immutable in its opposition to the passage of shipments of such material through the Caribbean Sea, which is recognised by the United Nations as a Special Area in the context of Sustainable Development.
He pointed out that the environmental, socio-economic and cultural identity of CARICOM is dependent on the integrity of the Sea from which the Region takes its name.
“CARICOM vehemently condemns as unacceptable and injurious, the practice by the United Kingdom, France and Japan of transporting hazardous waste through the Caribbean Sea, thus risking the very existence of the People of the Caribbean. This ongoing practice is intolerable to the People and Governments of CARICOM,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
He said the Community urges all those involved in making these shipments, to halt them immediately.
Available at: http://www.leewardstimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=962&catid=34
5. U.S. Pressing for Deal with Other Countries to Build Nuclear Fuel Repository in Mongolia
The Mainichi Daily News
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Momentum has been quickly building behind the scenes for an ambitious and controversial project led by the United States and Japan to build a nuclear fuel repository in Mongolia as Washington is trying to secure a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with other countries concerned by the end of this year.
After the Mainichi reported on the proposal in May, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which wants to be able to buy nuclear fuel from Mongolia, joined the list of countries pursuing the project, and earlier this month the U.S. Department of Energy sounded out other countries concerned about signing a memorandum of understanding on the program by the end of this year. The project itself is to build a mechanism in which advanced countries force the maintenance of nuclear waste, which takes at least 100,000 years to break down to become harmless, onto developing countries.
On May 6, 2009, three men landed at Chinggis Khaan International Airport in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator. Two men from an American think-tank and a bureaucrat from the Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry held talks with then-Mongolian Foreign Minister Sukhbaataryn Batbold (currently the prime minister) and Defense Minister Luvsanvandan Bold, telling them, "Mongolia should become the Switzerland of the East." They then presented a proposal written in English on a spent nuclear fuel repository.
Mongolia, sandwiched between China in the south and Russia in the north, has long suffered from repeated interference by the two giants. Drawing on Switzerland, which declared itself a permanent neutral country and boosted its security by hosting United Nations organizations, the three men tried to persuade the Mongolian officials by saying, "If your country builds a storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and has it managed by an international organization, China and Russia will no longer be able to meddle carelessly in your affairs. In doing so, your country will be able to contribute to the strengthening of security in Northeast Asia."
The proposal is to build a nuclear fuel production facility, nuclear reactors, a research lab and a storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in an area near uranium mines in the Gobi Desert, southern Mongolia, and let the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) manage the facilities.
Their explanations to the Mongolian side focused on security for Mongolia. The Obama administration withdrew its plan late in 2009 to build a storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in an area near Yucca Mountain in Nevada due to strong resistance from local residents. Playing key roles in thrashing out the Mongolian plan were the U.S. Energy Department, which now found itself on a search for an alternative repository site abroad, and Toshiba Corp (including its subsidiary Westinghouse Electric Co.) -- the biggest nuclear reactor manufacturer in both the U.S. and Japan -- which predicts that securing a storage facility for spent nuclear fuel would boost its sales of nuclear power plants overseas.
According to the IAEA, an estimated 330,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel exist in the world. About 15,000 tons of such fuel is produced annually and 8,500 tons of such fuel is stored for disposal and 2,000 tons is reprocessed. Even if spent nuclear fuel is reprocessed, it will generate high levels of radioactive substances, and therefore it will need to be contained for the same length of time as that for spent nuclear fuel that is being disposed.
It is extremely difficult to build a nuclear waste repository in the United States and Japan due to fierce opposition from local residents. Therefore, Mongolia, which boasts the lowest population density among U.N. members and sits on solid ground, was singled out for the ambitious and contentious nuclear project.
Available at: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110801p2a00m0na022000c.html
6. Russia, U.S. to Hold Nuclear Security Drills in August
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Russia and the United States will hold joint nuclear security drills under the auspices of the bilateral military cooperation committee, the U.S. Department of State said.
The exercise, codename Crimson Rider, will take place at the Camp Guernsey base in Wyoming. The exact date of the exercise is yet to be announced.
The drills, focusing on counter-terrorism measures, will involve a vehicle used for transporting nuclear warheads.
The drills are aimed at exchanging tactical and technical experience in providing security for nuclear materials. Russian and U.S. servicemen will also train to prevent proliferation of self-made explosive devices.
Available at: http://en.rian.ru/mlitary_news/20110726/165390227.html
The U.S. Department of Energy will team with counterparts in New Delhi to examine technology in civilian nuclear research, an official said.
The Energy Department said it signed an agreement with the Indian Department of Atomic Energy to explore accelerator and particle detector research.
"This agreement is the latest step in the deepening cooperation between the U.S. and India on a range of clean energy and scientific fronts," U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman said in a statement.
"Working together, we will be able to further our collective understanding of accelerators and high-energy particles, pursue new technologies and scientific discoveries and advance our shared clean energy goals."
The agreement provides a legal framework for joint projects in civilian nuclear research. The agreement specifically aims to expand superconductor research at national laboratories in the United States.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Indian officials last week to discuss security and energy ties. The countries in May outlined a $25 million funding opportunity for a joint clean energy research center that would focus on solar energy and advanced biofuels.
The U.S. Department of Commerce is planning a trade mission to India in November to discuss commercial partnerships in the clean energy sector.
India announced last week that it started construction on the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station, the 25th nuclear power plant in the country.
Available at: http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2011/07/26/US-India-team-for-nuclear-work/UPI-16481311688435/?spt=hs&or=er
1. Obama Administration Cancels DHS Nuclear Detection Program
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The Obama administration canceled a $1.2 billion program to install nuclear material detectors at U.S. ports of entry, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. According to Tuesday's DHS statement to the U.S. Congress, the equipment is unreliable as far as its "technical glitches" that included false positives or false alarms.
Even so, the Homeland Security Department plans to give a go-ahead for implementing a small-scale version of the original plan using handheld radiation detectors.
"The idea is to detect radiation and identify the kind of material producing it," said security consultant and anti-terrorism expert Nick Gloss.
"The Homeland Security Department spent $230 million over five years to develop the equipment and I dare say they will not tell lawmakers that they have nothing to show for it," said Gloss.
Following several "Red Team" undercover operations that revealed undercover operatives were able to sneak radioactive material into the United States across both north and south borders and through other entry points, the DHS and the White House have been under pressure to correct the security vulnerabilities regarding weapons of mass destruction.
At a cost of $822,000 for each of the faulty devices, the original plan was to install them at 1,400 sites where shipped materials enter the United States.
The Homeland Security Department rushed to complete the technology using poorly designed tests that made it difficult to “draw reliable conclusions” about whether the equipment worked properly, the National Academy of Sciences reported. A more recent Government Accountability Office report said projected costs of the equipment have risen significantly.
In addition, without better performance tests, the Homeland Security Department lacks “the input it needs to determine whether ASP is ready to progress toward production and deployment,” the GAO report said.
The Advanced Spectroscopic Portal program was the Obama administration's response to intelligence reports indicating that terrorists may attempt to enter the U.S. with nuclear weapons or radiological material used to create so-called dirty bombs into the United States in cargo containers. Dirty bombs are conventional explosives packaged with radiological material.
At the time of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, only about 2 percent of the cargo entering the United States was inspected by Customs and Border Protection. Congress set a goal in 2006 of inspecting 100 percent of the incoming cargo for nuclear material.
“The threat of a nuclear or radiological weapon being used against New York City is also among the foremost concerns of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly,” said Richard Daddario, the New York City Police Department’s deputy commissioner for counterterrorism.
He described the police department’s Securing the Cities Program for using equipment and training personnel to respond to risks of a nuclear attack.
Available at: http://www.examiner.com/public-safety-in-national/obama-administration-cancels-dhs-nuclear-detection-program
1. Russia Unlikely to Take Role in Iran’s Plan to Build More Nuclear Plants: Lawmaker
Xinhua News Agency
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An Iranian lawmaker said that Iran plans to build more nuclear power plants in future but Russia is unlikely to be given a role in its plans, the local satellite Press TV reported on Tuesday.
Hossein Amiri Khamkani said that the Islamic Republic plans to build more nuclear power plants in upcoming years as the country moves forward with its nuclear program, the report said.
However, Russia may not be Iran's partner in future plant projects since Moscow had reneged on its promises to complete and launch Iran's first nuclear power plant on several occasions, Amiri Khamkani was quoted as saying.
He blamed Russia for the delay in launching the Bushehr plant and said the plant was supposed to go on stream in January according to the latest agreement between Iran and Russia, said the report.
Amiri Khamkani, a member of a special parliamentary committee set up to examine the status of the Bushehr plant, made the remark in an interview on Monday.
In July, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran hopes to put the Bushehr nuclear power plant in operation by the end of August.
The construction of the plant has almost completed and it is currently in the testing stage, said the spokesman.
Iranian and Russian officials are currently negotiating the date for the launch of the power plant, Mehmanparast said.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich has said that Russia was awaiting Iran's decision on the 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.
Construction of the Bushehr plant began in 1975 by several German companies. However, work was halted when the United States imposed an embargo of hi-tech supplies on Iran after the 1979 revolution. Russia signed a contract with Iran to complete the construction in 1998.
The plant's construction has been postponed several times due to technical and financial challenges and pressure from the United States.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-08/09/c_131038621.htm
An Iranian lawmaker said the country's first nuclear power plant will not start up by late August as planned and blamed the delay on Russia, which is building the facility, local media reported Monday.
The disclosure by Asgar Jalalian, a member of a special parliamentary committee on the Bushehr nuclear plant, reflects the continued the difficulties Iran has faced in moving forward with its controversial nuclear program.
The 1,000 megawatt plant being built in the southern port city of Bushehr has experienced repeated delays that come on top of the unyielding pressure Tehran faces from the United States and its allies, who are convinced the program is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its program is for peaceful uses like power generation.
The plant is being built by Russia's Rosatom, and was to be finished by 1999, four years after construction of the $1 billion facility began.
Jalalian, in comments carried by the reformist daily Aftab, blamed the his country's Russian partner for the latest delays. He said the committee on which he serves has determined that the late August start-up deadline will be missed and that they had handed over a report dealing with the issue to the parliament.
"We believe the Russians are not being honest ... about the plant," Jalalian said. He urged Iranian officials to clarify the terms of the deal through "transparent and firm talks, without any 'buts' or 'ifs'."
Jalalian said Iran had already paid at least twice more than the planned construction costs on the project, and additional funds are being demanded.
The contracts with the Russians have no "clear financial ceiling, timetable and end date," he said, also claiming that the Russian partner had reneged on a promise to transfer technology to Iran, as promised in the deal.
Rosatom spokesman Sergei Novikov said the company had no comment.
It was unclear when the full parliament would review the committee's report on the delay or what steps they might take. But the report is the first issued at such a high level to be circulated among Iranian officials.
The Bushehr project dates back to 1974, when Iran's U.S.-backed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi contracted with the German company Siemens to build the reactor. The company withdrew from the project after the 1979 Islamic Revolution brought hard-line clerics to power.
In 1992, Iran signed a $1 billion deal with Russia to complete the project and work began in 1995. Since then, the project has been beset by problems linked to construction and supply glitches.
Iranian officials have acknowledged that a malicious computer worm infected laptops belonging to Bushehr employees last year, but denied that the Stuxnet worm had affected the facility. Tehran later blamed the U.S. and Israel of being behind the malicious software, saying it was part of a covert plan by Iran's enemies to sabotage its nuclear program which it claims is intended for peaceful purposes only.
Western nations have imposed sanctions on Iran over its uranium enrichment program, targeting in particular
Russia had already delivered 90 tons (82 metric tons) of fuel for the reactor in eight shipments in 2007 and 2008. That amount is enough for a one-year of operations in Bushehr's light-water reactor.
But in February, Russia ordered that fuel be removed because of concerns that metal particles might be contaminating fuel assemblies. Reloading began in April.
The delays at Bushehr have hurt relations with Moscow and prompted Iranian officials to describe Russia as an "unreliable partner."
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ikHg4w4EZXByUGmAOgqqcGnz7-og?docId=0793299a68684bb1a855e681aa3e594c
1. GE Plans ‘Aggressive’ Bid to Build Poland’s First Nuclear Plant
Maciej Martewicz and Marek Strzelecki
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GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy Ltd. said its planned bid to build Poland’s first nuclear power plant will benefit from a project in neighboring Lithuania, allowing it to reduce costs and share materials.
GE-Hitachi is preparing for negotiations with PGE SA, Poland’s largest utility, which will seek a partner to build as much as 3,000 megawatts of nuclear capacity, after Lithuania chose the Wilmington, North Carolina-based company last month to build a replacement for a Soviet-era reactor.
The Lithuanian project, GE’s record of on-time delivery and its presence in Poland should give it a competitive edge against rivals that may include Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC and France’s Areva SA, according to Daniel L. Roderick, senior vice president of nuclear plant projects.
“We will be very aggressive about our bid,” Roderick said in an interview in Warsaw on July 28. “Running two projects at the same time close to each other could help us reduce costs. Also, a lot of the workforce and materials for the Lithuanian plant will come from Poland,” he said.
Germany’s decision to give up atomic energy, which accounts for some 23 percent of the country’s total generation capacity will affect the bidding process, Roderick said. Electricity prices in Europe may rise as the continent’s largest economy has to import power.
“We can deliver a competitive price for the Polish plant in the current market” even without taking into account the expected price increase from the German decision, Roderick said.
Poland can still meet its deadline for the first nuclear reactor to come on line by the end of 2020 if it chooses the builder by 2014, Roderick said.
“We’ve seen great progress by PGE in establishment of the bidding process in the last six months and we’re very positive about it,” he said.
GE Hitachi will attend PGE’s so-called engagement conference, which the Polish utility will organize for potential bidders in September. Roderick says he expects an official tender to be announced “a few weeks” later and the winner to be picked in 18 to 24 months.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-01/ge-plans-aggressive-bid-to-build-poland-s-first-nuclear-plant.html
2. Tokyo Electric Says Will Not Join Turkey Nuclear Project
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Tokyo Electric Power Co said it would not be involved in a planned nuclear power plant project in Turkey because it is focusing on overhauling its operations in the wake of the disaster at its tsunami-crippled Fukushima atomic station.
The company, also known as Tepco, had previously said it would join the project to build a second nuclear plant in Turkey on the Black Sea coast if industrial conglomerate Toshiba , which has been in talks with Turkey, asks for its help.
"We plan to withdraw from operations except for those that are essential to the power business," a Tepco spokesman said on Thursday. "We will not be involved in Turkey."
Turkey may end priority negotiations with Japan on building the plant by the end of this month, a move that could lead to competition for the project with other nations including France and South Korea, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Turkey and Japan reached a basic agreement in December to build the plant and had aimed to conclude the deal within three months. But the talks were delayed after Japan's earthquake and tsunami in March crippled Tepco's Fukushima plant and caused a radiation crisis.
The spokesman said, however, that Tepco would be involved in Japan's project to win a nuclear plant order from Vietnam.
A consortium of Japanese utilities and nuclear power developers including Tepco set up a venture in October, aiming to win nuclear plant orders from overseas, including Vietnam.
The group includes Japan's top three utilities Tepco, Chubu Electric Power Co and Kansai Electric Power Co , along with Toshiba, Hitachi Ltd and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/07/28/turkey-nuclear-tepco-idUKL3E7IR5FO20110728?feedType=RSS&feedName=tnBasicIndustries-SP
Despite the fallout from Japan's March disaster at its Fukushima nuclear power complex, China seems determined to advance its agenda to develop civilian nuclear energy.
Hong Kong's China Light and Power Holdings Ltd. announced that its subsidiary, CLP Nuclear Investment Company Ltd., has reached an agreement with the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Company Ltd. to invest in its Yangjiang Nuclear Power Station Project in western Guangdong province, purchasing a 17 percent share in the nuclear power plant for $11 billion.
The facility's electrical production is 6,000 megawatts, the company announced Tuesday.
Construction on the facility began in 2008 in Guangdong province. The NPP facility consists of six 1,000-megawatt pressurized water reactors, a configuration similar to Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power complex. The NPP is 147 miles west of Hong Kong and construction will last from 2013-17. The NPP's electricity will be sold locally.
China's relentless search for energy sources to sustain its booming economy is actively promoting alternative energy sources such as nuclear, wind and solar in an effort both to reduce rising demand for imported oil and natural gas as well as reducing the country's ongoing environmental damage from its heavy reliance on coal to produce electricity.
Despite having a carefully controlled media, Chinese government officials have acknowledged the implications of Japan's Fukushima nuclear debacle by emphasizing that the country's nuclear policy would stress safety over rampant rapid economic development at any cost.
China Light and Power Holdings Ltd. sought to allay citizens' safety fears about the new NPP by stating in a news release that it had "carefully assessed" the new NPP's safety standards regarding the facility's design, construction and operational planning to ensure that they comply with governmental regulations, adding that the NPP will follow "safety enhancement measures for withstanding extreme multiple natural disasters and strengthening capability for emergency preparedness."
Reacting to citizens' fear about the possible implications for China's NPPs, last month China's nuclear regulators said safety reviews of 28 reactors under construction in China should be completed within three months, while the country's 13 NPPs currently online were rigorously examined and given clean bills of health.
China Light and Power Holdings Ltd. released a statement commenting that the new power plant will also follow "safety enhancement measures for withstanding extreme multiple natural disasters and strengthening capability for emergency preparedness."
Available at: http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2011/07/26/HK-firm-invests-in-China-nuclear-plant/UPI-47151311713217/
1. Sellafield Nuclear New Build May Be Delayed for Two Years – Claim
J. Barnie Beasley Jr.
(for personal use only)
The timetable for building new nuclear power stations – including one at Sellafield – could slip by up to two years, a senior politician has warned.
Tim Yeo, the Conservative chairman of the Parliamentary energy select committee, blames a “frustrating” lack of political will.
The NuGen consortium hopes to build up to three reactors at Sellafield by 2023. Nationally, the Government plans 12 reactors on eight sites to become operational between 2018 and 2025.
But energy companies such an NuGen will decide whether to invest only when new legislation designed to make nuclear build viable becomes law.
Mr Yeo says this is unlikely to happen until the end of 2013, a year later than expected.
He told the Financial Times: “If it was a sufficiently high priority it would be happening sooner than that.
“There isn’t any great policy disagreement here. There is a reasonable consensus over how new nuclear should be supported.
“I’m disappointed and a bit frustrated, as I think others are, that it hasn’t been treated with enough priority.”
He added: “The danger with any delay is that, if any further problem arises, then you get an even longer delay.”
NuGen has an option to buy 500 acres at Sellafield from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. It is preparing a planning application and will make a final decision on whether to push ahead in 2015 or 2016.
Because NuGen’s scheme comes towards the end of the new-build programme, the consortium is hopeful that delays in passing legislation will not affect it.
A nuclear power station at Sellafield would create 5,000 new jobs during the construction phase and around 800 permanent jobs once it opens.
Any slippage in the timetable would rub salt into the wound inflicted by last week’s announcement of the imminent closure of the Sellafield Mox Plant, putting 600 jobs at risk.
Mr Yeo is a long-standing supporter of the nuclear industry. In 2005, when he was Shadow Environment Secretary, he promised that a Conservative government would take a decision on new power plants within a year of taking office.
He told the News & Star while visiting Carlisle: “There is an urgent need for a decision to be made on nuclear power. We won’t hang around.”
The Conservatives lost the 2005 General Election but the Labour government announced a nuclear new-build programme in January 2008.
Available at: http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news/nuclear-build-plan-could-be-delayed-fear-1.866146?referrerPath=news
2. Jordan to Name Nuclear Plant Builder in November
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Jordan said on Monday it will announce in November the firm it has chosen to build the parched kingdom's first nuclear plant to meet growing energy needs and desalinate water.
"Three companies were selected in June -- a consortium by France's Areva and Japan's Mitsubishi, Russia's Atomstroyexport and Atomic Energy of Canada," Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Khaled Tukan told AFP.
"The winning bidder will be announced in November," he said, adding that work is under way to choose a site for the plant, focusing on Al-Majdal, 47 kilometres (29 miles) northeast of the capital.
Jordan, which buys 95 percent of its energy needs, imports about 240 million cubic feet (6.8 million cubic metres) of Egyptian gas daily, or 80 percent of its electricity-generating requirements.
"Nuclear energy is seen as the technology of choice for satisfying future electricity demands and requirements for new power plants," Tukan said.
Jordan is one of the five driest countries in the world, with 160 cubic metres (5,650 cubic feet) of water a year per capita.
"Water desalination will require a massive amount of electrical power which nuclear energy can provide at a reduced cost," said the minister.
But concerns in Jordan about nuclear power have been growing after a huge earthquake and tsunami hit Japan's northeast coast in March.
The 9.0-magnitude quake generated a massive tsunami that wiped out towns along vast stretches of the Pacific coast, leaving more than 20,000 people dead or missing and triggering an atomic crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Radiation leaked into the air, sea and soil, contaminating farm produce and also making its way into tap water.
An independent coalition of 16 environmental NGOs in Jordan has organised demonstrations in Amman to denounce the planned nuclear programme, calling for it to be replaced by solar energy projects instead.
"We have to have public acceptance and public awareness. The Fukushima accident has definitely created some fear," Tukan acknowledged, also warning that "we are living through a very severe energy crisis."
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jZurh33oGjVEghKUFsMOnMHafuGA?docId=CNG.32c732cf1e90321ab700d5c1ff2bb1cd.21
Southern Company is expecting to begin full construction of two reactors at the end of this year, having been given a licensing schedule by the nuclear safety regulators.
Significant site work is already underway for Vogtle 3 and 4, near Waynesboro, Georgia, including some related to safety taking place under a limited authorization. The official start of construction of a nuclear power plant comes with the first pouring of concrete related to nuclear safety, but this will have to wait a few more months, Southern said yesterday. Company head Thomas Fanning said that he 'could see the finish line from here' as the licensing process moves into its final stages.
Retaining walls show where Vogtle 3 will stand. Pipes for coolant are being laid on the right, and in the distance stands the module assembly building (Image: Southern)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has told Southern it will be ready to issue a Final Safety Evaluation Report this month, and that the public hearing process on that would take until around the end of 2011. The result should be a combined Construction and Operating Licence that will authorise full scale construction, commissioning and operation - subject of course to ongoing checks by the NRC.
The new AP1000 units from Westignhouse will sit alongside two other pressurized water reactors from the same vendor built in the 1980s.
So far, Westinghouse and its partner Shaw have cleared and excavated the twin-unit site, installing a materials warehouse and a covered module assembly building. Sections of the containment vessel bottom head have already been delivered for at least one of the units.
Two concrete batch plants are in operation with at least ten mixing trucks available to move the concrete around the site. Large sections of concrete pipework are being laid out for cooling water circulation and foundations are in place for the heavy-lift derrick crane that each unit will need. Retaining walls mark out the future locations of the two nuclear islands.
Southern expects the construction workforce to peak at 3500 before the reactors start operation in 2016 and 2017. After that 800 staff will be required for operation, in addition to the 900 that already work at units 1 and 2.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN_US_new_nuclear_build_before_2012_0508111.html
4. AEC Plays Down Controversy Over No. 4 Nuclear Plant
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Construction of Taiwan’s fourth nuclear power plant is on schedule, with the ROC government making every effort to ensure facility safety, according to the Atomic Energy Council.
The AEC statement follows local media reports that during a July 29 nuclear safety taskforce meeting, experts had raised concerns over the facility and demanded state-run Taiwan Power Co. halt work on the project.
Experts questioned Taipower’s ability to oversee construction of the plant and requested it implement structural design changes and seek assistance from international professionals.
Sources familiar with the matter claim the controversy has sparked speculation that the project might be scrapped entirely.
“Expert opinions expressed in the meeting do not represent the council’s final decision,” AEC Minister Tsai Chuen-horng said. “The question of whether to halt construction was raised during discussions, but there has never been any talk about abandoning the project.”
Tsai said the meeting focused on the current stage of construction and keeping the testing schedule on track to ensure facility safety when it comes on line in 2014.
While Taipower has been requested to suspend construction to correct flaws discovered during regular safety inspections, Tsai said, the AEC has never ordered a complete stoppage. “The AEC will continue working with relevant experts and officials on safety issues and conduct a full analysis of routine inspection results,” he added.
According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the nuclear station, located in New Taipei City, is now 93 percent complete with construction expenditure exceeding NT$250 billion (US$8.64 billion).
Upon completion, the facility will be able to generate 20 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, reducing Taiwan’s carbon emissions by 16.2 million metric tons.
Available at: http://www.taiwantoday.tw/ct.asp?xItem=173479&ctNode=445
5. Bulgaria Selects 5 Companies for N-Plant Stress Tests
Sofia News Agency
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Bulgaria has picked five companies to prepare the stress tests at the country's sole nuclear power plant in Kozloduy, a public procurement notice shows.
Local consultancies Risk Engineering and Enpro Consult, US energy giant Westinghouse, which was recently signed to help extend the life of Units 5 and 6, WorleyParsons, consultant of Belene nuclear power project, and the Institute for Nuclear Research and Nuclear Energy at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences have been contracted to help the plant conduct the tests.
Ten companies, associations and research institutes were invited at the end of June to compete for preparing the stress tests at Kozloduy, including France's Areva, which oversees the plant's security systems.
The contest included negotiations with the invited companies. The project budget is set at BGN 2.52 M.
The stress tests at the plant will cost about BGN 11 M and will be financed by the nuclear company.
Stress tests are performed in three stages, examination of the nuclear operator, local authority control and peer review by EU.
The consultants should verify and prepare the necessary documents, which will then be audited by the Nuclear Regulatory Agency.
Bulgaria began preparations for stress testing its Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant, NPP in March.
The check includes seven key components – location of the NPP, flood risk, cooling systems - construction, spare power facilities, longevity, type of reactors, and terrorist threat.
The International Atomic Agency will be notified about the test and its experts will be invited as monitors.
Upon conclusion of the check, Bulgaria will publicly announce the results and will propose the type of testing applied at Kozloduy to be included in the common European requirements for NPP tests.
In case there are additional safety testing requirements by the European Commission, Bulgaria is ready to apply them as well.
Earlier in March energy ministers from the European Union reached an agreement to stress test all EU NPPs. The decision came on the heels of the 9 point magnitude on the Richter scale earthquake and following 10-meter tsunami which damaged the Japanese Fukushima NPP.
The criteria for testing the NPPs in Europe are expected to be ready by the end of the year while the testing itself is not to start until 2012.
Available at: http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=130830
6. Nuclear Power Use to Grow Despite Fukushima: IAEA
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In a keynote address at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues, which started Wednesday in Matsumoto, central Japan, Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said nuclear power "will remain an important option for many countries."
"Nuclear safety is the responsibility of individual states, but the IAEA will play the lead role in shaping a safer nuclear future throughout the world," Amano told the conference, Kyodo News reported.
On Tuesday, Amano told reporters that the agency plans to draw up an action plan to enhance nuclear safety around the world by September. The plan is scheduled to be implemented from summer 2012 and will especially address contingencies such as natural disasters and power blackouts.
During the conference on Wednesday, the IAEA chief described Japan's worst nuclear accident as "one of the most serious and complex disasters which human beings have ever had to deal with," Kyodo reported.
The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station has leaked radioactive substances since it was crippled by a magnitude-9 earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11.
On Monday, Amano visited the stricken, six-reactor plant for the first time and was briefed by Masao Yoshida, chief of the plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO).
During his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Tuesday, the former Japanese diplomat offered expertise on decontamination and extraction of spent fuel rods to Japan as TEPCO tries to stabilize the plant.
The nuclear crisis made more Japanese aware of the danger of nuclear reactors in the quake-prone country.
About 70 per cent of the public wants Japan to abolish nuclear power generation, a Kyodo poll showed Sunday.
Japan has 54 nuclear reactors across the country and relies on atomic power to supply about 30 per cent of its electricity.
Available at: http://www.timeslive.co.za/scitech/2011/07/27/nuclear-power-use-to-grow-despite-fukushima-iaea
1. TEPCO to Begin Building Cover Fukushima Reactor Wed.
The Mainichi Daily News
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The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said Tuesday it will begin in earnest on Wednesday work to install a giant covering over the plant's No. 1 reactor, with plans to complete it by the end of next month.
The covering, a tent-like structure made of steel frames and air-tight polyester sheets, is meant to prevent radioactive materials from spreading from the crippled reactor and stop rainwater from entering the reactor building, said Tokyo Electric Power Co.
When completed, the covering will be between 42 and 47 meters long and about 54 meters high. About 60 components are being brought to the seaside plant via the Pacific.
On Wednesday, a steel structure about 6.9 meters high that weighs about 30 tons is expected to be pulled up by a crane and installed at the southeast corner of the No. 1 reactor building.
The building housing the No. 1 reactor and those housing the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the plant were badly damaged due to explosions after tsunami caused by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck the plant on March 11.
Once the installation is completed at the reactor, Tokyo Electric will consider installing similar coverings for the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors, the operator said.
Available at: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110810p2g00m0dm010000c.html
The Japanese government will work to establish a new nuclear safety agency following last March's nuclear disaster.
The Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says the establishment of a new body is desirable, and that the new institute will be under the authority of the Ministry of the Environment.
The new agency will be charged with administering the removal of radioactive substances from contaminated soil around the crippled Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, and other health services to residents living in the vicinity of nuclear power stations.
The state minister in charge of the nuclear crisis will release a draft initiative to outline the new institute. Officials say the new agency could be launched as early as next April.
Public trust in Japan's NISA has fallen following several highly publicized scandals.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/video/2011-08/04/c_131029322.htm
3. Japan to Fire Top Energy Officials After Fukushima Nuclear Plant Disaster
Tsuyoshi Inajima and Yuji Okada
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Japan’s government plans to fire three top officials in charge of energy policy as part of sweeping changes in the bureaucracy after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda said.
Personnel including the vice minister of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the director general of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy and the head of the country’s nuclear regulator will be removed from their posts, Kaieda said at a press briefing in Tokyo today.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, a body that’s supposed to police the industry, is under the control of bureaucrats in the Trade and Industry Ministry, which promotes atomic power. Their close links hampered a quick response to the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi station, the government said in June.
“To renew the ministry, there will be sweeping personnel changes,” Kaieda said. He declined to comment on reports he will resign after the changes. Further details will be announced later, he said.
The removal of Vice-Minister Kazuo Matsunaga, the director general of the energy agency, Tetsuhiro Hosono and Nobuaki Terasaka, the director general of NISA, was earlier reported by the Asahi newspaper.
Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima station has been emitting radiation since an earthquake and tsunami on March 11 knocked out power and cooling, causing three reactor meltdowns and hydrogen explosions.
The accident is rated at the highest level on a severity scale, the same as the Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union in 1986.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-04/japan-to-fire-top-energy-officials-after-fukushima-nuclear-plant-disaster.html
The temperature of the water in the used fuel pool of unit 4 at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant has dropped significantly with the start-up of an alternative cooling system. Meanwhile construction of a supporting structure beneath the pool has been completed.
Fukushima Daiichi unit 4 was offline for regular maintenance when the 11 March earthquake and tsunami struck, meaning that its full inventory of nuclear fuel was stored in the used fuel pool at the time. The pool contains 1535 fuel rods, many more than held in the used fuel pools of the other units at the site and therefore generating more heat.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) started setting up an alternative circulation system, utilizing a heat exchanger, at unit 4 in mid-July. The system is designed to pump warm water out of the pool, cool it, and then return the water to the pool. The company said that it began a test run of the system at 0:44 am on 31 July. The temperature of the pool at that time was between 86°C and 87°C. Tepco said that following the successful trial run of the system, it had now put it into full operation.
By 5:00 pm on 31 July, the temperature of the pool had fallen by a few degrees, but by 8:00 am on 1 August the temperature had reportedly dropped to 63°C.
Tepco said that it intends to reduce the temperature of the pool of unit 4 to between 30°C and 40°C within one month.
The company has already installed similar alternative cooling systems at the used fuel pools in Fukushima Daiichi units 2 and 3. The temperature of those pools on 31 July was 34°C and 31°C, respectively.
Tepco is also setting up an alternative fuel pool cooling system at unit 1 and aims to run a test operation of that system within the next couple of weeks. The temperature of that fuel pool is unknown due to a failure of the instrumentation.
A sequence of several hydrogen explosions after an inflow of the gas on 15 March caused damage to the top part of the reactor building of unit 4, where the fuel pool is housed, as well as creating a large hole in a wall supporting the pool.
Tepco announced that it has now completed the construction of a supporting structure beneath the pool. The installation of steel pillars below the pool was completed on 20 June. The company completed the injection of concrete and grouting on 30 July.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-Temperature_drops_in_Fukushima_used_fuel_pool-0108114.html
5. Japan Approves $31 Billion Budget for Disaster Rebuilding Package
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Japanese lawmakers approved a ¥2-trillion (S$31 billion) disaster rebuilding package, passing the first of Prime Minister Naoto Kan's three legislative goals that he says must be achieved before fulfilling a pledge to resign.
Parliament's upper House approved the measure yesterday, five days after it cleared the lower House. The package, Mr Kan's second since the March 11 record earthquake and tsunami devastated north-eastern Japan and precipitated the biggest nuclear crisis in 25 years, is half the size of outlays allocated in May.
About half of the newly-approved budget will go toward temporary housing, health checks and other support projects for residents affected by the nuclear crisis.
Mr Kan has said he wants to win passage of a renewable energy bill and parliamentary authorisation to sell deficit-covering bonds before he steps down.
"This is the least controversial measure of the three, it'll be more difficult with the other two," said political science professor Koichi Nakano of Sophia University in Tokyo. "Still, chances are that Kan will step down by the end of August or early September."
About 80,000 residents had to evacuate their homes due to radiation threats from the tsunami-hit Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant.
The radiation fallout poses a growing threat to Japan's food chain as unsafe levels of cesium found in beef on supermarket shelves were also detected in vegetables and the ocean.
More than 2,600 cattle have been contaminated after they were fed hay containing radioactive cesium, Kyodo News reported last Saturday.
Seafood is another concern after cesium-134 in seawater near the Fukushima plant climbed to levels 30 times the allowed safety standards last week, according to tests performed by Tokyo Electric Power, national broadcaster NHK reported.
"The increase could be from seawater churned by swells from the recent typhoon, but it's possible that contaminated groundwater leaked from the plant," said Mr Tetsuo Ito, the head of the Atomic Energy Research Institute at Kinki University in central Japan.
Products including spinach, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tea, milk, plums and fish have now been found contaminated with cesium and iodine as far as 360km from Dai-Ichi. Agencies
Available at: http://www.todayonline.com/World/EDC110726-0000040/Japan-approves-S$31- billion-budget-for-disaster-rebuilding-package
1. US Sanctions Syrian Bank for Ties with N. Korea
Yonhap News Agency
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The U.S. government announced Wednesday that it has imposed sanctions on a Syrian state-owned bank due to its involvement in North Korea's proliferation activities.
The Treasury Department said the Commercial Bank of Syria has provided financial services to North Korea's Tanchon Commercial Bank and Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center, both of which were blacklisted for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The Syrian bank's Lebanon-based subsidiary, Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank, and Syriatel, the largest mobile phone operator in Syria, were also sanctioned under Wednesday's measure.
"By exposing Syria’s largest commercial bank as an agent for designated Syrian and North Korean proliferators, and by targeting Syria’s largest mobile phone operator for being controlled by one of the regime’s most corrupt insiders, we are taking aim at the financial infrastructure that is helping provide support to (President Bashar) Asad and his regime’s illicit activities,” Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said in a press release.
The Commercial Bank of Syria also holds an account for Tanchon Commercial Bank, the primary financial agent for the Korea Mining Development Corp., North Korea’s premier arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons, according to the department.
The U.S. is stepping up efforts to isolate the Assad regime amid its brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2011/08/11/39/0401000000AEN20110811000300315F.HTML
2. Pyongyang: No Uranium Enrichment Plant Other than Yongbyon
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North Korea, despite U.S. assertions to the contrary, maintains it is not operating any uranium enrichment facilities other than the one it acknowledges in Yongbyon, sources said.
North Korea's denial came during talks last month with the United States.
However, Washington believes North Korea is determined to secretly continue its uranium enrichment program to produce nuclear warheads, the sources said.
The United States and South Korea made this assessment based on intelligence that shows the North's uranium enrichment facilities are not limited to Yongbyon, about 90 kilometers west of Pyongyang.
In meetings held July 28-29 in New York, U.S. representatives demanded an immediate halt to Pyongyang's uranium enrichment program and asked if the North operated any such facilities other than the one in Yongbyon.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan replied that Yongbyon is the North's only uranium enrichment plant and that there are no others.
He said North Korea is committed to "peaceful, nuclear activity to generate electric power."
Japan, the United States and South Korea remain adamant that North Korea agree to abandon its entire nuclear program if six-party talks on this issue are to resume.
They are trying to obtain details about the status of Pyongyang's uranium enrichment program as part of efforts to reach that objective.
North Korea's stance suggests it will take more time for the six-party talks to start, the sources said.
When North Korea allowed Siegfried Hecker, a Stanford University professor of international security, to visit the facility last November, officials claimed 2,000 centrifuges had been installed at the uranium enrichment plant in Yongbyon.
That would allow North Korea to produce enough highly enriched uranium to create one or two nuclear warheads a year, assuming other conditions were also met.
North Korean officials told Hecker that construction of the plant began in April 2009.
This flies in the face of intelligence obtained by the United States and South Korea by 2008 that found that the North had succeeded in extracting a small amount of highly enriched uranium at an underground facility in western Pyeonganbuk-do province.
Washington and Seoul agreed that the North could have installed up to 5,000 centrifuges. This figure was based on the number of highength aluminum tubes known to have been imported by North Korea in the past.
U.S. officials say Kim's denial is not credible. They say it reflects North Korea's strategy to start denuclearization talks by limiting the discussions to the Yongbyon site.
Other sources familiar with the latest round of U.S.-North Korea talks say Washington is keen to consult Tokyo and Seoul on ways to flesh out details of five conditions, including scrapping the uranium enrichment program, that Pyongyang will have to meet before six-party talks get under way.
This means they will have to decide whether the conditions will cover only the Yongbyon facility as a prerequisite for resuming the six-party talks. They will also have to determine how to verify whether North Korea has abandoned its enrichment program once the North declares that it has.
The sources said some officials expressed concern that the United States, in placing more importance on stemming the proliferation of nuclear weapons, may seek to denuclearize only the Yongbyon site rather than ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons.
According to the sources, U.S. officials are concerned about new military provocations by the North.
Available at: http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201108080274.html
3. S. Korean Top Security Advisor Visits U.S. for Talks on DPRK Nuke Program
Xinhua News Agency
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South Korea's top security advisor left for the United States Tuesday for talks on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s nuclear program, a report here said.
Chun Young-woo will pay a three-day visit to Washington involving meetings with officials including U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and Stephen Bosworth, Washington's envoy for the DPRK, according to Yonhap News Agency.
The visit, at the invitation of Donilon, comes after Washington and Pyongyang officials held rare talks over resuming multilateral negotiations aimed at ridding the DPRK of its nuclear program.
The top presidential security adviser is expected to coordinate policies with U.S. counterparts amid rising expectations for the resumption of the six-party talks, according to the report.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-08/09/c_131038266.htm
4. N. Korea Urges S. Korea, U.S. to Call Off Joint Military Exercises
Yonhap News Agency
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North Korea has urged South Korea and the United States to cancel their annual joint military exercise next week, linking the proposed move to better relations with Seoul and Washington.
The move comes as South Korea and the United States prepare to mobilize tens of thousands of troops in the computer simulation war game to enhance their ability to deter North Korea's possible aggression.
The two sides also plan to practice removing North Korean weapons of mass destruction during the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise set to run from Aug. 16 to 26, according to a South Korean official.
The North has frequently accused South Korea and the U.S. of plotting to launch a nuclear war on the North, a charge that Seoul and Washington have repeatedly denied.
The North's army mission at the border village of Panmunjom demanded Sunday that Seoul and Washington call off the drill to show their commitment to improving their ties with Pyongyang.
"They must officially make public their willingness to cancel the military exercises targeted against the army and people of the (North), if they want to normalize the relations with the (North)," the North's army said in a letter to South Korea and the U.S., according to the county's official Korean Central News Agency.
The South Korean and U.S. militaries quickly brushed off the demand, saying Monday that they will proceed with the drill.
The North's demand is not unusual, but the latest one comes amid signs of easing tensions that had been sparked last year by the sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on the North and the North's shelling of a South Korean border island.
Nuclear envoys of the two Koreas met on the sidelines of a regional security meeting in Indonesia last month, which paved the way for a rare meeting between North Korea and the U.S. on how to resume long-stalled talks on ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs.
South Korea has also offered 5 billion won (US$4.7 million) in emergency relief aid to North Korea to help it recover from devastating floods.
The North's military mission said the normalization process should begin with an end to hostile relations.
Pyongyang has long yearned to sign a peace treaty with Washington as a way to improve their relations after decades of enmity following the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty
The U.S. keeps some 28,500 troops in South Korea as a legacy of the war.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2011/08/08/92/0401000000AEN20110808008400315F.HTML
5. North Korea Makes Debut as Disarmament Chair, Draws Flak
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North Korea, under fire for its own nuclear programme, took the helm of the Conference on Disarmament for the first time on Thursday to a chorus of protests and called for the elimination of nuclear weapons. The ascension of the secretive and Stalinist state to the monthly rotating presidency of the 65-member United Nations-backed talks got the cold shoulder from other countries and drew criticism from human rights groups and dissidents.
Canada did not attend the session, having promised to boycott the chairmanship of what it called a "major proliferator of nuclear weapons.
"Allowing an international outlaw to oversee international arms control efforts is just plain wrong," Hillel Neuer, director of the Geneva-based group U.N. Watch said in a statement.
"North Korea is a ruthless regime that menaces its neighbours and starves its own people and should not be granted the propaganda coup of heading a world body dedicated to peace."
So Se Pyong, North Korean's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, did not refer to the controversy as he chaired the talks, attended by all other delegations including South Korea and the United States.
The mercurial North conducted its second nuclear test in 2009, triggering U.N. sanctions that cut off a lucrative arms trade, further squeezing its moribund economy.
Human rights groups held a protest outside the U.N. in Geneva on Tuesday, displaying what they said were drawings of North Korean prison camps made by survivors.
Anti-Pyongyang activists have voiced outrage at its role in the sole multilateral disarmament negotiating forum.
"Whenever there was such a situation in the international community, the North Korean regime has used it as propaganda," Kim Jooil, a former army captain who defected in 2005, told a news briefing in Geneva earlier this week.
"Confirming the legitimacy of the North Korean regime is going to perpetuate the state of slavery of North Korean residents," he said.
Diplomats say the forum's president plays a largely ceremonial role of facilitator and must not abuse his position.
"If he had been making propagandistic use of it, it would be alarming," said a diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
So's deputy Ri Jang Gon told the body: "The DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) remains consistent in its support for total and complete elimination of nuclear weapons in the world and is fully committed to this goal."
Ri called for political will to overcome the impasse at the forum that has been deadlocked for over a decade.
It has been unable to launch negotiations on any issue since clinching the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty banning underground atomic explosions. Halting production of fissile material (plutonium and highly-enriched uranium) is widely considered as the next step in global nuclear disarmament.
Pakistan has blocked the required consensus for launching fissile material negotiations, insisting that existing stocks should also be included to counter what it says is India's strategic advantage, according to diplomats and U.N. officials.
Norway's envoy said bluntly that the conference, which includes all the known and suspected nuclear powers, had become "dysfunctional."
The United States and others have suggested that it may be time to bring negotiations on fissile material outside of the Geneva forum, at least initially.
Ri did not refer to North Korea's nuclear programme or prospects for resuming six-party denuclearisation talks between the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.
A 2005 agreement spells out a process in which North Korea will scrap its nuclear progamme in exchange for economic and energy aid and diplomatic relations with the United States and Japan, but international talks collapsed two years ago.
North Korea said on Monday that it had agreed to further dialogue with the United States and repeated it was willing to resume regional nuclear disarmament talks at an early date, without preconditions. Both Pyongyang and Washington called the discussions, the first such contact in four years, "constructive."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/04/us-arms-nuclear-idUSTRE7734TQ20110804
6. U.S. Still Cautious about Next Steps on N. Korea
Yonhap News Agency
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After "good and constructive" talks with North Korea last week, the United States on Monday maintained a guarded stance on next steps.
U.S. officials neither confirmed nor denied Pyongyang's announcement that the two sides agreed to further dialogue when North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan and Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special representative for policy on the communist nation, met in New York on Thursday and Friday.
"We thought that these were good meetings, that they were constructive. And we're going to consult with our partners on the way forward," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said at a press briefing.
He added he has nothing to announce yet on Bosworth's potential trips to South Korea, China and Japan to share the results of his talks with Kim.
The North's foreign ministry announced earlier that it agreed to hold additional talks with Washington. The four nations, along with Russia, are members of the six-party talks on the North's nuclear ambitions.
With regard to the North's uranium enrichment program (UEP), Toner reiterated that Pyongyang should live up to its international obligations to abandon all of its nuclear program in exchange for economic and political benefits.
Speaking to reporters in New York on the weekend, the North Korean vice foreign minister claimed its UEP is to "produce electricity."
In New York, meanwhile, Kim attended a seminar Monday with American experts on Korea, hosted by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy (NCAFP), a source said.
The NCAFP refused to reveal the time and venue for the event, only saying a related press conference will be held at 6 p.m.
Kim is scheduled to leave New York for Beijing on Tuesday and stay in the Chinese capital for two days for consultations with Chinese officials, added the source.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2011/08/02/39/0301000000AEN20110802000300315F.HTML
7. North Korea Meetings with US Reflect a Cautious Conflict Avoidance
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A high-level meeting between American and North Korean diplomats, the first such encounter for more than two years, got underway in New York on Thursday amid hopes that stalled six-party talks on eliminating Pyongyang's nuclear weapons may resume this autumn – and stark warnings that time is running out for a deal.
Both sides expressed caution, with US officials describing the exchanges as "exploratory". Speaking during an Asia visit earlier this week, secretary of state Hillary Clinton said there would be no softening of Washington's demand that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons in return for normalised relations, energy assistance and security guarantees.
North Korea's vice foreign minister Kim Kye-gwan said he was "optimistic" the six-party talks would be revived. "Now is the time for countries to reconcile," he said. In a move timed to coincide with the New York meeting, Pyongyang reiterated its call for a treaty formally ending the 1950-53 Korean war.
The resumed bilateral dialogue takes place against a backdrop of growing concern in South Korea and Japan that if North Korea cannot be persuaded to abandon its enrichment and other nuclear weapons-related activities, it may soon enter a more technologically advanced phase of its nuclear programme – meaning bigger, better bombs and longer-range ballistic missiles.
"Right now, North Korea may well be at a critical transitional moment in the development of its nuclear arsenal," said Joel Wit and Jenny Town, writing in Foreign Policy. "Pyongyang has already completed the first phase of developing such an arsenal ... If [North Korea] is anything like other small nuclear powers, we can expect it to move on to building increasing numbers of more sophisticated nuclear weapons mounted on a variety of missile delivery systems."
Reflecting this heightened sense of urgency, the US appears to be urging Seoul to move on from last year's sinking of a South Korean navy ship and a brief bombardment of its territory by the North. "The US has definitely put some pressure on the South Korean government about beginning talks with North Korea," Hong Hyeon-ik, an analyst at Seoul's Sejong Institute, told the Washington Post.
John Kerry, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, suggested recently the current stalemate could not be allowed to continue. "Make no mistake: given North Korea's recent irresponsible conduct, staying in a diplomatic holding pattern invites a dangerous situation to get even worse," he said. But at the same time, other officials and analysts worry the US may concede too much in its effort to seal a deal.
These concerns come in the context of broader anxiety that Washington's security guarantees for South Korea, dating back to the 1950s, are weakening as an overstretched, financially challenged US struggles to manage, or contain, the rise of an ever more militarily powerful and assertive China, North Korea's only important ally. To a greater or lesser degree, this anxiety about American commitment infects the region as a whole.
"Comments by influential South Koreans that their country should consider requesting the return of US nuclear weapons to their shores – or even acquire its own nuclear weapons – reflect persistent unease about how regional security developments are challenging US extended security guarantees developed during the cold war," said Richard Weitz, writing in The Diplomat.
"Although of less immediate concern to most South Koreans, the rising power of China has also been profoundly affecting regional security dynamics," Weitz said. "In particular, China's growing military power has resulted in many east Asian countries deepening their security ties with the US and building up their defences, including by acquiring ballistic missile defences. In response, the Chinese have tightened their ties with North Korea, which, despite the headaches it causes, is a reliable buffer state."
In short, it's plain any US proposal for a deal with North Korea must meet two basic criteria. On the one hand, it must be tough enough to reassure Seoul and other nervous allies that the nuclear and missile threat has been lifted. On the other hand, it must not be so tough as to scare off North Korea, push Beijing and Pyongyang closer together, and feed the claims of Chinese government hawks that Washington is bent on the strategic and military "encirclement" of China.
In some ways, the North-South standoff resembles a much larger potential confrontation, between the US and China, which flickers episodically across the region from Vietnam to the Philippines and the East China Sea. Just how fragile the security situation is becoming was illustrated last month when two Chinese fighters crossed the unofficial line dividing the Taiwan Strait in hot pursuit of an American spy plane. No shots were fired. Not this time anyway.
Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/28/north-korea-us-meetings-conflict-avoidance
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