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Nuclear News - 8/18/2011
PGS Nuclear News, August 18, 2011
Compiled By: Michael Kennedy

A.  Iran
    1. Iran: Russia’s Nuclear Proposal is ‘good strategy’, Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press (8/16/2011)
    2. Bushehr N Plant to join grid by Sept., Press TV (8/14/2011)
    3. Iran vows to protect nuclear scientists, Alex Fishman, Ynet News (8/14/2011)
B.  North Korea
    1. NKorea threatens to bolster its nuclear arsenal, Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press (8/17/2011)
    2. North Korea poised for nuclear weapon test next year, Greg Sheridan, The Australian (8/16/2011)
    3. U.S. and S. Korea Begin ''Routine, Defense-Oriented`` Joint Military Exercise, PanOrient News (8/16/2011)
C.  Radiological Security
    1. Radiological Sites in Hawaii Complete NNSA Security Enhancements, NNSA (8/12/2011)
D.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Japan restarts first reactor since quake, Xinhua News Agency (8/18/2011)
    2. Jordanians lash out against planned nuclear reactor, David Miller, Jerusalem Post (8/14/2011)
E.  Nuclear Industry
    1. Japan to Pass 'Explosive Growth' Renewable Energy Bill, John Shimkus, Energy Digital (8/14/2011)
    2. New nuclear plants may get green light soon, Liu Yiyu, China Daily (8/12/2011)
F.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Clamour to supply UAE nuclear needs, April Yee, The National (8/12/2011)
    2. No consensus on crossait nuclear safety pact: official, Focus Taiwan News Channel (8/11/2011)
G.  Nuclear Oversight
    1. Japan cites lessons from nuke accident, Pia Lee-Brago, The Phillipine Star (8/18/2011)
    2. Japan Tightens Nuclear Oversight, Mitsuru Obe, Wall Street Journal (8/16/2011)
    3. U.N. atom body wants wider nuclear safety checks, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (8/15/2011)
    4. Russia to Set Up Firm for Turkish Nuclear Plant, Hurriyet Says, Ercan Ersoy, Bloomberg (8/15/2011)
H.  Links of Interest
    1. After Fukushima: nuclear dirty tricks, The Guardian (8/16/2011)
    2. Partisanship in Tehran Could Slow Nuclear Program, Patrick Disney, The Atlantic (8/16/2011)
    3. On International Day against Nuclear Tests, Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations (8/15/2011)

A.  Iran

Iran: Russia’s Nuclear Proposal is ‘good strategy’
Ali Akbar Dareini
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Iran is ready to resume negotiations on its nuclear program and a Russian proposal will aid the process, Iran's foreign minister said Wednesday.

Ali Akbar Salehi spoke at a news conference in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, but neither side gave new details about the Russian proposal.

Six nations — the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, China and Germany — have been pushing Iran to meet U.N. Security Council demands to stop enriching uranium amid fears Iran aims to develop nuclear weapons. The last round of the "sextet" talks was in January.

The Russian proposal is for a "step-by-step" approach under which the international community would make limited concessions to Iran for each step it makes in disclosing its nuclear intentions. The United States has worked with Russia on the plan, which Russian Security Council head Nuikolai Patrushev discussed in Iran this week with Tehran's top nuclear negotiator.

"I agree that talks should be begun on the Iranian nuclear question," Salehi said, adding "(But) we will not accept any kind of pressure."

On the Russian proposal, "we consider that there are good elements in this proposal. It puts obligations on all sides," Salehi said.

Lavrov declined to speculate on when new steps might be taken under the plan.

Tehran denies accusations that it is trying to develop nuclear weapons, insisting its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity and producing isotopes to treat medical patients.

But Western concerns have grown, because Iran's uranium enrichment program could also make fissile warhead material and it refuses to cooperate with U.N. investigations of possible military dimensions of its nuclear programs.

The Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran is not a weapons-proliferation concern because of international safeguards on its spent fuel. But Iran has celebrated the plant as a major technological achievement and a sign of its determination to master all aspects of nuclear technology.

However, the plant's entry into service has been repeatedly delayed.

Lavrov said Wednesday the "last preparatory steps" are being discussed and the plant could go on line soon.

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Bushehr N Plant to join grid by Sept.
Press TV
(for personal use only)

The first phase of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant has been scheduled to be launched by the end of the holy month of Ramadan (early September) with a 40 percent capacity.

Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Fereydoun Abbasi Davani announced that a pre-launch phase of the plant was due to be implemented by September and “If things proceed according to plans ...the [Bushehr] power plant will join the national grid with a 40 percent capacity,” IRNA reported.

He stated that should certain technical tests be successfully executed, then the power plant will link up to the national power grid.

He further alluded to the safety standards of the power plant and emphasized, “We will observe the safety of the plant at the highest level, especially following the impact of what happened at the Fokushima nuclear power station on the world public opinion.”

Abbasi anticipated that the power plant would be officially launched in its entirety by next December.

The construction of Bushehr power plant started in 1975 when Germany signed a contract with Iran. Germany, however, pulled out of the project following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran then signed a deal with Russia in 1995, under which the plant was originally scheduled to be completed in 1999, but the completion of the project was repeatedly delayed. The nuclear power plant was finally finished with the help of Russia following a three-decade delay.

In October 2010, Iran started injecting fuel into the core of the reactor at Bushehr nuclear power plant in the initial phase of its launch. However, engineers began removing the fuel rods in late February for safety reasons.

The unloading of the fuel delayed the plant's connection to the national grid, initially scheduled for the beginning of 2011.

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Iran vows to protect nuclear scientists
Alex Fishman
Ynet News
(for personal use only)

Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi announced last week that the regime will increase security around its research staff, according to the Iranian news agency. This is said to be a first step in a series of measures to protect Iran's nuclear scientists.

The announcement is a first indicator that the regime is concerned about the fact that four key individuals involved in the development of the Iranian military's nuclear program were assassinated over the past two years, Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Sunday.

The latest incident occurred on July 23, when Darioush Rezaei, who was identified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a physicist working on the development of components used in nuclear weapon systems, was shot dead by a motorcyclist in Tehran.

Despite international media reports on Rezaei's background, the Iranian authorities claimed that it was a physics student who was mistakenly shot.

The Iranian media reported recently that the assassination was carried out by internal elements, further suggesting that the regime has been shaken by the incident, since admitting that a foreign body was behind the assassination would have caused a bigger embarrassment.

Past blunders concerning individuals working on Iran's atom program include the 2008 execution of Ali Ashtari, a Tehran businessman convicted of spying for Israel. Ashtari confessed to making transactions with Mossad agents.

In January 2010, nuclear scientist Massoud Mohammadi was killed by a bomb-rigged motorcycle parked outside his home. Another nuclear scientist, Majid Shahriari, was killed when a bomb that was attached to his car detonated in November 2010. On the same day, another explosion injured Fridun Abbasi, Shahriari's colleague.

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B.  North Korea

NKorea threatens to bolster its nuclear arsenal
Hyung-Jin Kim
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

North Korea threatened Wednesday to bolster its nuclear arsenal in response to annual U.S.-South Korean military drills that Pyongyang calls a rehearsal for invasion.

The North's warning came on the second day of computer-simulated war games that the United States and South Korea call Ulchi Freedom Guardian. The allies say the 11-day drills are purely defensive, but North Korea says the training is extremely provocative and undermines recent attempts to promote peace on the Korean peninsula.

Last month, diplomats from the United States and the two Koreas held tentative talks on restarting long-dormant negotiations aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program in exchange for aid and other concessions.

"The U.S. is staging exercises for a war of aggression against its dialogue partner, while putting up a signboard of dialogue," an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said Wednesday.

"It is self-evident that (North Korea) should put spurs to bolstering its nuclear deterrent for self-defense both in quality and quantity to cope with this situation," he said in a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

The statement didn't elaborate on how the North would strengthen its nuclear arsenal. The country has issued similar threats in the past when the United States and South Korea have conducted military drills.

North Korea is believed to have enough plutonium for at least a half-dozen weapons and revealed last November that it has a uranium enrichment facility that could give it another way to make atomic bombs.

Tension on the Korean peninsula spiked last year after the North's alleged torpedoing of a South Korean warship and its deadly bombardment of a South Korean border island. A total of 50 South Koreans died.

The Korean peninsula remains technically in a state of war after the 1950s Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

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North Korea poised for nuclear weapon test next year
Greg Sheridan
The Australian
(for personal use only)

North Korea will conduct another nuclear weapons test within 12 months, according to senior US sources with access to Washington's intelligence assessments.

This will bring much closer the day when North Korean nuclear weapons could threaten Australia. And it could trigger explosive reactions in northeast Asia.

The senior US sources believe the test could come sooner rather than later, although next year is regarded as the most likely.

"2012 is an auspicious year from the North Korean point of view," said one senior American.
"It's an election year in the US and an election year in in South Korea. And the North Koreans have publicly declared their desire to be a fully functional nuclear weapons state by 2012."

For most of the past decade, sources say, North Korea has been systematically involved in nuclear proliferation.

At a meeting in 2003, senior North Koreans told representatives of the Bush administration that if the Americans did not agree to their demands for aid and diplomatic recognition, Pyongyang would share its nuclear technology with foreign nations.

Shortly after that, US sources believe, the North Koreans began selling nuclear technology to Syria and Burma.

In 2007, Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor in Syria that was being built by the North Koreans.

In 2009 and last year, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a series of statements in which she expressed concerns about North Korea transferring nuclear material to Burma.

Senior US sources believe the illegal nuclear trade between North Korea and Burma continues to this day.

Senior sources believe Burma's primitive technological base means it is unlikely to be able to produce nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future.

However, the US administration is still extremely concerned about the nuclear trade between North Korea and Burma.

There is also believed to be an extensive trade, especially in missile technology, between North Korea and Iran.

North Korea is known to have two nuclear weapons programs, one involving plutonium and one highly enriched uranium.

A weapons test involving either would be extremely dangerous.

Once a nation can produce highly enriched uranium, it is relatively easy for it to keep increasing its weapons-grade stock annually.

North Korea is believed to have made progress on miniaturising nuclear weapons so they can be carried on long-range missiles. The Taepodong-2 missile, which the North Koreans tested unsuccessfully in 2006 but much more successfully in 2009, has the range to hit northern Australia, as well as US states such as Alaska and Hawaii.

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U.S. and S. Korea Begin ''Routine, Defense-Oriented`` Joint Military Exercise
PanOrient News
(for personal use only)

The United States and Republic of Korea (ROK) today started their annual ''routine and defense-oriented,'' joint military exercise, Unchi Freedom Guardian, designed to "strengthens U.S. and ROK forces' interoperability and capability to defend the ROK through field exercises and cyber scenarios," U.S. Navy said.

More than 530,000 troops will take part in the computer-assisted simulation command post exercise, which will run through Aug. 26. USS Blue Ridge arrived in Busan, ROK, on Aug. 13, and embarked U.S. 7th Fleet Sailors are directly engaged in the annual exercise.

North Korea reportedly called the drills an ''extremely provocative northward aggression exercise'' and urged that it be cancelled.

''It is challenging and realistic training focused on preparing, preventing and prevailing against the full range of current future external threats to the Republic of Korea and the region,'' Gen. James Thurman, commander of the Combined Forces Command said.

"The purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to the ROK-U.S. alliance and enhance the combat readiness of ROK and U.S. supporting forces through combined and joint training," said Blue Ridge's Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Ralston. "...our Sailors will work closely with their ROK military counterparts to build upon relationships vital to achieving our shared goals.

Blue Ridge serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force and is forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

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C.  Radiological Security

Radiological Sites in Hawaii Complete NNSA Security Enhancements
(for personal use only)

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today recognized the state of Hawaii and the city and county of Honolulu for completing security enhancements on all high priority radiological materials. The voluntary enhancements came with the assistance of NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and further improve radiological material security across Hawaii to prevent the material from being lost or stolen. The enhancements also dramatically increase radiological security prior to the Asia Pacific Economic (APEC) Summit that will draw world leaders to Hawaii in November 2011.

“This momentous achievement has helped make our country more secure from the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Securing vulnerable radiological material is a vital part of implementing President Obama’s nuclear security agenda,” said NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino. “I want to thank the state of Hawaii and local officials for their continued support in making our country a safer place for all who live and visit here. Hawaii is the first state that has completed the full range of NNSA/GTRI security enhancement offerings and can serve as a model for other states to follow.”

NNSA’s cooperation with Hawaii began in April 2007 in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Hawaii was the first state to volunteer for GTRI’s domestic radiological voluntary security enhancements. In addition to completing radiological material security enhancements on all high priority civilian radiological materials, all alarms and video surveillance were integrated with multiple off-site response locations. A tabletop exercise in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other partners was also conducted and Hawaii officials participated in the Alarm Response Training in Oak Ridge, Tenn. This enabled the integration of response by state and county officials.

“The completion of the security enhancements coincides with the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic (APEC) Summit that will be held in Hawaii in November 2011,” said Melvin Kaku, Director of the Department of Emergency Management for the city and county of Honolulu. “President Obama and leaders and representatives from 20 other countries will participate in this event. It was important to have the radiological sources in Hawaii secured under tight enhancement measures.”

Shawn Gallagher, Director for Nuclear Threat Reduction and Nuclear Energy Cooperation at the National Security Council said, “Protecting our homeland is a critical part of worldwide nuclear threat reduction and we take the security of our radioactive materials very seriously. I would like to recognize the importance of this achievement in the context of our global nuclear threat reduction efforts.”

“The collaborative efforts undertaken by NNSA, other federal agencies, and state and local governments have effectively enhanced the security of radiological materials in Hawaii. I am very pleased that Hawaii is safer and now serves as a model for improved security across the nation,” said Sen. Daniel K. Akaka. “We must continue to better secure radiological materials both at home and abroad in order to safeguard human life, health, and economy.”

NNSA’s Y-12 National Security Complex provided radiological security alarm response training to Hawaii and Honolulu city and county first responders and other officials, as well as to officials at facilities which were upgraded. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Yamasato, Fujiwara, Higa & Associates, Inc. (YFH), a local Honolulu company, worked with Hawaii to implement the security enhancements, and Sandia National Laboratories installed retro-fit plates on the irradiators which greatly increase the time required to remove the radiological sources.

In partnership with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Department of Homeland Security, NNSA continues to install voluntary security upgrades at civilian sites in the United States to reduce the potential for theft or misuse of radiological materials that could be used in a dirty bomb. These voluntary upgrades are in addition to security enhancements required by the NRC and state governments since 2006.

NNSA’s GTRI has partnered with more than 100 countries to strengthen security at nuclear and radiological facilities; convert highly enriched uranium fueled research reactors to low enriched uranium fuel; and recover excess and/or vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials. GTRI strives to set a positive example in the United States to build cooperation and consensus internationally on these important security issues.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.

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D.  Nuclear Energy

Japan restarts first reactor since quake
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

Japan has approved the full resumption of commercial operations at a nuclear reactor for the first time since the March quake and tsunami.

The operation of about three quarters of Japan's 54 reactors has been suspended since the twin disasters sparked the Fukushima nuclear crisis, mostly for regular safety checks. But leaks of radiation, evacuation of residents and contamination of food and seawater have weakened public confidence in safety. Many host communities have been reluctant to approve their restart.

Hokkaido Electric power Co. restarted commercial operations at the Tomari plant reactor number 3, soon after receiving official approval. However, Kyodo news says its restart will make no difference to electricity output, as it was already generating electricity at full capacity under an "adjustment operation".

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Jordanians lash out against planned nuclear reactor
David Miller
Jerusalem Post
(for personal use only)

Activists encourage gov't to search for energy alternatives as Amman makes plans to build nuclear reactor in response to rising oil prices.

Jordan has opted for nuclear power as a solution to its energy woes. But politicians and local residents say they will oppose any government bid to build a nuclear reactor in the resource-poor kingdom.

Three international companies are bidding for a government contract to construct a 1,000-megawatt Generation III reactor by the end of the decade near the city of Mafraq, 40 kilometres (25 miles) northeast of the capital Amman. Jordan's Energy Ministry announced that the winner will be named in November.

Jordan currently imports over 95% of its energy, costing it one-fifth of the gross domestic product in 2010. Political upheavals in the Middle East have dramatically raised oil prices this year. It relies on Egyptian natural gas for 80% of its energy needs, but repeated attacks on a gas pipeline in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula have boosted prices and disrupted supplies.

So the government has decided to push forward with nuclear energy, claiming it is the only reliable, long-term solution for Jordan's energy concerns. But residents of Mafraq say the planned reactor will pollute their environment and endanger their health. Political forces in the kingdom have also rallied against nuclear power plants.

"We believe it is better to search for alternative sources of energy than to focus on nuclear power," Dr. Said Diab, Secretary General of the Jordanian Democratic Popular Union Party, an opposition group, told The Media Line. "The dangers of the nuclear reactor outweigh its advantages, so our party has decided to join the public campaign against it."

Diab said that many developed countries have decided to abandon nuclear energy due to the potential environmental danger it poses. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Japan would "scale back" its dependence on nuclear energy in the coming years following the meltdown of the Fukushima power plant in March after it was hit by a massive tsunami. In the wake of the Japanese disaster, Germany announced it would close down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 following widespread anti-nuclear demonstrations across the country.

The Mafraq residents have set up a coalition called Irhamouna, Arabic for "have mercy on us." It unites environmentalists, geologists and youth activists. Coalition coordinator Nidal Hassan told The Jordan Times that his group would launch a series of information sessions and demonstrations against the reactor in Mafraq and Amman following the month of Ramadan on Facebook.

“Our children are already sick from fumes. Do we need radiation too?” Mohammed Khawaldeh, a resident of the area, told the daily.

Zeena Hakim, a 21-year-old student from Amman is volunteering in Greenpeace's first public campaign in Jordan against the nuclear reactor. Greenpeace will join Irhamouna activists in Mafraq next Tuesday to protest against the reactor.

"We oppose all nuclear programs," Hakim told The Media Line. "It causes danger to the environment, the water, and there is so much waste involved."

"The solution is energy conservation and efficiency," Hakim said. "Jordan has above average levels of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power."

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E.  Nuclear Industry

Japan to Pass 'Explosive Growth' Renewable Energy Bill
John Shimkus
Energy Digital
(for personal use only)

Solar and wind companies, set your sails for Japan! The country is about to pass a landmark bill into law that will see “explosive growth” in both solar and wind energy investment according to Prime Minister Naoto Kan. The bill is designed to reduce Japan’s dependence on nuclear power, which accounts for roughly 30 percent of the country’s energy generation. Japanese lawmakers are readying to sign the bill into law by the end of August.

The bill has been developed and promoted by Prime Minister Kan himself, and seeks not only to move away from nuclear dependence, but also break the energy monopoly held by the country’s 10 major utilities.

The legislation calls for installed renewable energy capacity to rise by at least 20 percent of the country’s total power by the early 2020s.

The bill will require utilities to purchase power from outside providers, such as cooperatives and private companies. The rule aims to promote the use of alternative energy sources, which currently only make up 9 percent of Japan’s total electricity supply.

Japan’s Energy Minister will be responsible for setting the prices at which utilities must purchase power from renewable energy generators. Unfortunately, this will likely translate to higher electricity prices for manufacturers, who are still trying to recover from the crippling effects of the earthquake and tsunami.

Prime Minister Kan had been pursuing this kind of legislation prior to the catastrophe that led to the Fukushima reactor meltdown, but with little support. However, the meltdown quickly changed the country’s view of nuclear power, and Kan’s bill has gained immense support since. Kan has noted on various occasions that he would not leave office until the law was enacted. The passage of the bill in the coming weeks may mark the final feather in the cap for the relatively unpopular Prime Minister, allowing him to step down with a sense of accomplishment.

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New nuclear plants may get green light soon
Liu Yiyu
China Daily
(for personal use only)

China concluded a nationwide safety inspection of nuclear plants on Aug 5 in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis, indicating that the country is advancing closer to the resumption of approvals for new nuclear plants, according to a website notice by the China Nuclear Energy Association on Thursday.

On April 15, the inspection group, which consisted of the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA), the National Energy Administration and China Earthquake Administration, started a national safety check on nuclear plants that are under construction and in operation, according to the notice.

The safety inspection was expected to last for six months.

China suspended approvals of new nuclear plants on March 16 following Japan's Fukushima nuclear incident caused by a devastating tsunami.

"The inspection, which was completed at least one month earlier than expected, could be an indication that China has no major safety issue in its current plants," said Xiao Xinjian, industry expert at the Energy Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Commission.

A possible concern may be over the first reactor China has ever built at the Qinshan Nuclear Power Station. It went into operation in 1991 and is scheduled to shut down in 2020, the expert said.

China is likely to issue a safety plan at the end of this month, after which, the country will resume nuclear plant approvals, Lin Chengge, former deputy director of the NNSA, told China Daily earlier.

Results of the inspection will be provided to the government for a review on safety improvements, Lin said.

These results will also serve as the basis for China to adjust its nuclear development program, though experts expected no dramatic change of the plan.

The country had a total of 10.82 gigawatts (gW) of nuclear capacity at the end of last year.

China is capable of adding 12 gW of nuclear capacity in the near term, experts said.

The Chinese government should aim to maintain its 2020 target of achieving 40 gW, according to Kevin Tu, a senior energy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank.

On Aug 7, a new unit of the Ling'ao Nuclear Power Plant at Dayawan in Shenzhen began commercial operation. Dayawan is China's largest nuclear power base.

China will not waver in its determination to develop nuclear power, Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang said during a visit to the China Institute of Atomic Energy on April 14.

As China attaches more focus on the safety of nuclear technology, it is likely to adopt the third-generation AP 1000 technology developed by US-based Westinghouse Electric Co in its future plants.

According to Westinghouse, the first reactor vessel had arrived at the Sanmen Nuclear Power Plant in China's Zhejiang province at the end of July.

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F.  Nuclear Cooperation

Clamour to supply UAE nuclear needs
April Yee
The National
(for personal use only)

France and Russia are among the nations vying for a lucrative 15-year deal to supply nuclear fuel to the UAE.

Emirates Nuclear Energy Cooperation (Enec), the company building Abu Dhabi's first nuclear plant, opened bids last month for a "substantial" contract for the uranium to power the reactors due to be built 300km west of the capital.

The UAE is in talks with nations to have used nuclear fuel returned, an arrangement known as "fuel leasing". This would save the UAE the headache of having to store radioactive waste. France and Russia are the only countries that have agreements to keep other nations' spent fuel.

"The UAE would favour an arrangement where spent fuel is taken back after use," Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE's permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said yesterday.

"Some other countries have indicated interest, but they still have to develop their capabilities. There are challenges related to internal legal matters in some of these countries regarding the return of foreign spent fuel."

The question of long-term storage of nuclear waste is still a problem worldwide. The issue has become highly topical since the partial meltdown at three reactors and subsequent radiation contamination from spent-fuel ponds triggered by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last March.

The matter becomes of increasing importance to the UAE with the approach of a 2017 deadline to bring the first reactor online, making the country the first nation in the Arab world with nuclear power.

That timetable hinges on approval from the Emirates' independent nuclear regulator, which is reviewing the plans.

Enec plans to store the first batches of used fuel, in ponds of cooling water for five to 20 years. The first four and a half years worth of supply are to be provided by the South Korean consortium that won the original US$20 billion (Dh73.4bn) plant contract. Then Enec will encase the radioactive material in thick concrete barrels that will be kept in the open, a temporary solution used by the US and other nations.

Enec is aiming to sign the 15-year supply contracts in the first quarter of next year and could award bids to more than one country, said Fahad Al Qahtani, the acting director for external affairs and communications at Enec.

The US, the UK, Australia and Japan - along with France and South Korea - are the nations that have signed nuclear cooperation agreements with the UAE that will provide the legal foundation for knowledge transfer or supply sales.

Russia, which has already targeted developing countries entering the nuclear industry such as Jordan and Vietnam, is in talks with the Emirates over such an agreement, said Mr Al Kaabi.

France is also eager to line up fresh nuclear deals after losing the 2009 bid to build Abu Dhabi's plant, a loss that sparked an independent report re-examining French nuclear competitiveness.

The country's state nuclear energy company Areva is well positioned to supply the UAE since it can take the spent fuel back, recycle most of it and store the remainder on French soil.

"There's plenty of room, it seems, for dozens of French firms," Pierre Lellouche, the French foreign trade minister, said regarding nuclear contracts in the UAE during a recent visit to Abu Dhabi.

Australia, which has 40 per cent of the world's known uranium reserves, has been most vocal about its desire to make the UAE its customer.

It is already the world's third top supplier of uranium ore and has successfully sold to China, the estimated market for about two-thirds of the new reactors planned over the next 20 years.

Australia's foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, visited Abu Dhabi in March to announce his country's hopes for a bilateral uranium trade agreement, although he stipulated Australia would require potential partners to maintain strict control over nuclear material.

"A bilateral safeguards agreement with Australia is a further strict non-proliferation condition that Australia requires for supplying uranium," he said at the time.

The two biggest suppliers of uranium, Canada and Kazakhstan, have yet to sign nuclear cooperation agreements with the UAE.

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No consensus on crossait nuclear safety pact: official
Focus Taiwan News Channel
(for personal use only)

Taiwan and mainland China have not reached a consensus over the signing of an agreement on nuclear safety cooperation during the upcoming seventh round of top-level cross-Taiwan Strait talks, officials said Thursday.

Kao Koong-lian, vice chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), said that both sides are still exchanging views on the issue.

The statement came after officials said a day earlier that a much-anticipated investment protection agreement might also not be signed during the meeting slated to take place in the Chinese city of Tianjin in late August or early September between SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung and his Chinese counterpart, Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits President Chen Yunlin.

Although Wang Yi, director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of China's State Council, had earlier expressed optimism about the signing of both the nuclear safety agreement and the investment protection pact, the two sides failed during a working-level meeting in Shanghai that ended Aug. 7 to resolve differences on a dispute arbitration mechanism and ways of protecting Taiwan businessmen's safety in China.

Taiwan has proposed that disputes between Taiwanese businessmen and the Chinese government should be arbitrated by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), but China remains sensitive about the idea, officials said earlier in the week, adding that further talks are needed.

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G.  Nuclear Oversight

Japan cites lessons from nuke accident
Pia Lee-Brago
The Phillipine Star
(for personal use only)

Since the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power stations last March, Japan said a midterm to long-term initiative is needed to settle the situation, imposing a huge burden on society, including the evacuation of many residents in the vicinity in the long run.

In a report to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Japanese government said the burden arising from such a midterm to long-term initiative also has a major impact on industrial activities, including the farming and livestock sectors.

“Japan’s basic policy is to release information about this accident with a high degree of transparency,” the Japanese government said in its report.

“There are thus many aspects different from the accidents in the past at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant and the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant,” it added.

The accident is also characterized by emergency response activities that had to be performed in a situation where the earthquake and tsunami destroyed the social infrastructure such as electricity supply, communication and transportation system across a wide area. The occurrence of aftershocks frequently impeded various response activities.

“This accident led to a severe accident, shook the trust of the public, and warned those engaged in nuclear energy of their overconfidence in nuclear safety. It is therefore important to learn lessons from this accident,” the report said.

The lessons learned by Japan from the Fukushima accident are presented into five categories emphasizing the most important basic principle of securing nuclear safety.

“We consider it inevitable to carry out a fundamental review of nuclear safety measures in Japan based on these lessons,” it said.

Lessons in category 1 stemmed from the fact that the Fukushima accident has been severe, and from reviewing the sufficiency of preventive measures against such a severe accident.

Lessons in category 2 arose from reviewing the adequacy of the responses to the accident.

Category 3 involved lessons learned from reviewing the adequacy of the emergency responses to the nuclear disaster.

Learning from the review of the robustness of the safety infrastructure established at nuclear power stations is the focus of lessons in category 4, while those in category 5 arose from a review of the thoroughness of the safety culture.

The Japanese government said the situation has become extremely trying for Japan, insofar as it has had to execute counter-measures during the nuclear accident while also dealing with the broader disaster caused by the earthquake and tsunamis.

“The fact that this accident has raised serious concerns around the world about safety of nuclear power generation is a matter which Japan takes with the utmost seriousness and remorse. Above all, Japan sincerely regrets causing anxiety for people all over the world about the release of radioactive materials,” Japan said.

Currently, Japan is dealing with the issues and working toward settling the situation, utilizing accumulated experience and knowledge.

Japan also recognizes its responsibility to share with the world the lessons it has learned from this process.

Japan sees the necessity of reviewing its current energy policy from scratch with a goal of “no-nuclear plant” and making the Tohoku region, heavily devastated by the March 11 earthquake, the center of renewable energy.

Deputy Cabinet Public Relations Secretary Noriyuki Shikata said in an interview with visiting ASEAN journalists that the country’s nuclear policy needs to be reviewed.

But there was no mention about the timing for the no-nuclear goal.

Shikata said there are discussions for the plan to make the Tohoku region the center of renewable energy.

State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Yutaka Banno said in a separate interview at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi sparked debate but “sooner or later the government can announce certain directions on nuclear energy.”

He emphasized the safer energy option for the Japanese government to achieve a greater level of safety by not limiting to nuclear power or establishing the best energy mix for the country.

“So in the days ahead we shall assume policies to encourage technical innovation to gradually reducing our dependence on nuclear energy and increasing reliance on renewable energy,” Banno said.

Shikata said Japan also received support from the United States and French companies for the technology of reducing radiation in water so it could be used again to lower temperature inside the Fukushima nuclear plant.

“The recycling of water system is beginning to work. We said it is difficult because it is a combination of different technologies; when we accumulate contamination of water, we get to the stage of how to dispose contaminated water,” he said.

The technology, he said, is going through different phases and is beginning to work.

“It is a different role by combining those technologies through different phases. It is the first time we are combining those technologies,” he said.

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Japan Tightens Nuclear Oversight
Mitsuru Obe
Wall Street Journal
(for personal use only)

Prime Minister Naoto Kan's government agreed Monday to put the environment minister in charge of regulating the sector, in a move aimed at significantly tightening regulation over the nuclear-power industry.

The current nuclear regulators, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and the Nuclear Safety Commission, will be integrated and reorganized into a Nuclear Safety Agency, to be created in April as an affiliate of the Environment Ministry.

The environment minister, as a result, will be given broad powers overseeing the industry and dealing with the aftermath of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.

"Strong political leadership will be required to bring the situation under control after such a disastrous accident," Goshi Hosono, minister in charge of nuclear accidents, said in a recent interview. Mr. Hosono has overseen the government's response to the Fukushima disaster.

NISA has come under criticism for appearing too lax toward the industry, with concerns that as part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry it was too close to the companies it was meant to regulate. One of METI's mandates is to promote the sale of Japanese nuclear technology abroad.

The new agency will handle various nuclear-related activities, including emergency response, radiation monitoring and dealing with nuclear terrorism.

NISA, with a staff of about 780 people, has been the main industry regulator, performing such tasks as plant inspections and reviews of plants' operating plans. The main role of the Nuclear Safety Commission, headed by five academic commissioners, has been to oversee NISA's activities.

NISA's credibility as nuclear regulator took a hit after the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March, and its reputation was further tarnished by allegations it was involved in attempts to manipulate public opinion in hearings in recent years, and to create the impression the public supports nuclear power.

NISA tried to rebuild its reputation by crafting responses to developments at the crippled plant, which succeeded in bringing the reactors under some degree of control. The agency also introduced new safety requirements to improve nuclear plants' capacity to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis, the main causes of the Fukushima disaster.

But the agency has struggled to regain public trust. Local communities across Japan have refused to allow the restart of reactors certified by NISA as safe. Nearly three-quarters of the nation's 54 commercial reactors have been shut down as a result, prompting Prime Minister Kan to intervene and accelerate the overhaul of the regulatory framework. Mr. Kan has called for weaning the country off its dependence on nuclear energy.

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Russia to Set Up Firm for Turkish Nuclear Plant, Hurriyet Says
Ercan Ersoy
(for personal use only)

Russia will set up a company to handle construction of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, Hurriyet reported, citing Hasan Koktas, head of the country’s energy regulator.

The company will have a capital of 1.4 billion liras ($787 million) and will apply to the Ankara-based regulator for a power-production license this year, the newspaper said.

Turkey selected Rosatom Corp. and Atomstroyexport ZAO to build the plant in the town of Akkuyu on the Mediterranean coast. The $20 billion project includes four units with a combined capacity of 4,800 megawatts, the newspaper said.

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U.N. atom body wants wider nuclear safety checks
Fredrik Dahl
(for personal use only)

The U.N. atomic agency would carry out international safety checks of ten percent of the world's reactor units over a three-year period, under a draft action plan to prevent any repeat of Japan's nuclear crisis.

The document from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), obtained by Reuters on Monday, outlined a series of measures in 10 areas to help improve global nuclear safety after the Fukushima accident more than five months ago.

While stressing that atomic energy safety was primarily a national responsibility, it signalled a strengthened role for the IAEA and its expert missions to review compliance with international reactor and regulatory standards.

Among the proposed steps in the Nuclear Safety Action Plan, the IAEA would "organize operational safety reviews ... of one nuclear power unit in ten over a period of three years".

It did not give details, but the IAEA has previously suggested plants could be randomly selected for such checks. There are some 440 operating nuclear reactors in the world.

The Vienna-based agency would also conduct regular assessments of national regulatory bodies, the draft said, in an apparent attempt to make sure they were sufficiently independent and resourced to be able to work effectively.

The proposals, aimed at ensuring nuclear plants can withstand extreme events such as the earthquake and tsunami that crippled Fukushima, may prove controversial for states which want to keep safety an issue strictly for national authorities.

The draft builds on the outcome of an IAEA-hosted nuclear safety conference in June. It will be discussed by diplomats of the agency's member states ahead of the U.N. body's decision-making General Conference next month.

The purpose "is to define a programme of work to strengthen the global nuclear safety framework worldwide," the IAEA text said. "Implementation of the actions proposed .... would represent a significant step forward," it added.

Japan's crisis has prompted a rethink of energy policy worldwide, underlined by Germany's decision to close all its reactors by 2022 and Italy's vote to ban nuclear for decades.


Three reactors at the Japanese complex went into meltdown when power and cooling functions failed, causing radiation leakage and forcing the evacuation of some 80,000 people.

But even though IAEA states agree on the need for enhanced nuclear safety, they have voiced differing positions on how much international action is needed.

Nuclear power plant exporters Russia and France have called for stronger international steps, but others are more cautious.

Currently there are no mandatory, international nuclear safety regulations, only IAEA recommendations which national regulators are in charge of enforcing. The U.N. agency conducts review missions, but only at a member state's invitation.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, a veteran Japanese diplomat, faces a difficult task in balancing different views among the agency's some 151 member states.

Under his draft plan, authorities would "promptly undertake a national assessment of safety margins against extreme natural hazards for nuclear power plants ... and to implement the necessary corrective actions."

The IAEA would then conduct "peer reviews of the national assessments," it said.

After the March 11 disaster at Fukushima, Japanese officials came under fire for their handling of the emergency and the authorities have admitted that lax standards and poor oversight contributed to the accident.

The IAEA action plan said states should conduct a national review of their regulatory bodies to ensure their independence. In addition, the IAEA would assess a member state's national regulatory framework every ten years, it said.

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H.  Links of Interest

After Fukushima: nuclear dirty tricks
The Guardian
(for personal use only)

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Partisanship in Tehran Could Slow Nuclear Program
Patrick Disney
The Atlantic
(for personal use only)

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On International Day against Nuclear Tests
Ban Ki-Moon
United Nations
(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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