1. North Korea Supplied Nuclear Software to Iran: German Report
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North Korea has intensified its cooperation with Iran this year and supplied it with a computer program that could help the Islamic Republic build nuclear weapons, a German newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing western intelligence sources.
The Sueddeutsche Zeitung said North Korea had in the spring delivered software, originally developed in the United States, that could simulate neutron flows.
Such calculations, linked to identifying a chain reaction, are vital in the construction of reactors and also in the development of nuclear explosives.
With the help of the program, Iran could gain important knowledge of how to construct nuclear weapons, reported the newspaper which quoted no individual source.
If confirmed, it could add to Western suspicions about Iran's disputed nuclear activities and its links with North Korea, a secretive Asian state whose pursuit of nuclear weapons worries the world.
A confidential U.N. report earlier this year said North Korea and Iran appeared to have been regularly exchanging ballistic missile technology in violation of U.N. sanctions.
Iran rejects Western accusations it is seeking to develop atomic arms but its refusal to halt sensitive work has drawn gradually tightening U.N. and Western sanctions since 2006.
The Sueddeutsche said the program, called Monte Carlo N-Particle Extended, or MCNPX 2.6.0., was used widely for civilian purposes but is subject to strict export controls because it can also be used to develop atomic weapons.
It is unclear how North Korea got hold of the software.
The deal could be part of a comprehensive cooperation between the two states for which Iran has paid more than $100 million, said the Sueddeutsche.
The paper also said a delegation from North Korea travelled to Iran in February to train 20 Defense Ministry employees of the defense ministry in the software.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog has voiced growing concern in the last year about possible military links to Tehran's nuclear program, saying it has received new information adding to those concerns.
"More information is coming and we are assessing it," Yukiya Amano, director general of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency told Reuters last week, without giving detail.
For several years, the IAEA has been investigating Western intelligence reports indicating Iran has coordinated efforts to process uranium, test explosives at high altitude and revamp a ballistic missile cone so it could take a atom warhead.
Iran rejects the allegations as forged and baseless.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/24/us-nuclear-northkorea-iran-idUSTRE77N2FZ20110824
1. Argentina Taps Canadian Firm to Revamp Nuclear Plant
Karina Grazina and Hilary Burke
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Argentina signed contracts worth $444 million on Wednesday with a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin Group (SNC.TO), Canada's top engineering firm, to extend the shelf-life of its Embalse nuclear plant.
The contracts signed by the government, state-owned Nucleoelectrica Argentina, and Candu Energy Inc -- the SNC-Lavalin subsidiary -- involve the transfer of Canadian technology and help developing the local manufacture of reactor components.
The government aims to extend the plant's working life by about 30 years, at a total cost of $1.37 billion, Planning Minister Julio De Vido told a news conference.
The Embalse plant came on line in 1984 and is located in the central province of Cordoba. It uses natural uranium and has a production capacity of 648 megawatts.
The overhaul will take a total of five years and will require a shutdown of the plant of roughly 20 months, starting in November 2013, according to a government statement. Argentina, Brazil and Mexico are the only Latin American countries with nuclear energy plants, and Argentina has embarked on an ambitious plan to build new plants to ease reliance on dwindling fossil fuels.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/25/argentina-canada-nuclear-idUSN1E77N24H20110825?rpc=401&
Days after having inked a civil nuclear agreement with South Korea, India will reopen the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) to make it more contemporary and further strengthen trade ties with the East Asian tiger.
The first round of talks on “upgrading” the CEPA will begin next week, with an Indian team due to visit Seoul. Since 2009, when the India-South Korea CEPA was sealed, both countries have shed their cautiousness and offered better terms to other nations. India has offered lower tariffs to other countries with which it has made similar agreements, while South Korea too has been more liberal in offering access to other countries.
“We finalised the India-South Korea CEPA in 2009. Since then, the ground realities have changed. They have made offers to other countries that go way beyond what was offered to us. This will help increase trade much faster,” said government sources.
Trade with South Korea stood at $7.1 billion in 2006. The CEPA propelled it to $17.5 billion in 2010 — an increase of 46 per cent over the previous year, with growth rates of exports being the same for both countries. The expectation from bilateral trade this year is $21 billion — very much on course to touch the target of $30 billion set for 2014. “Thanks to the CEPA, exports by both countries have risen. We are beginning to see Indian IT companies getting a foothold in South Korea because of CEPA,” said the sources.
Even as the government reopens the CEPA, it is keeping its eyes fixed firmly on the civil nuclear agreement signed during President Pratibha Patil's recent visit to Seoul. The text of the civil nuclear agreement was frozen at next February and offers India another option for setting up civil nuclear plants besides the three big boys of this sector — the U.S.-Japan, France and Russia. A high-level visit from Seoul later this year will help bring more depth to the agreement, said the sources.
“This agreement adds another dimension to the possibilities for India to access civil nuclear technology from another country,” said the sources. South Korea stunned the civil nuclear community by pipping the French giant Areva in a limited tender to bag $20 billion worth of orders from the United Arab Emirates for building four nuclear plants. Korea Electric Power Corporation has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited.
The intention is to forge a healthy all-round relationship with this crucial country on the periphery of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Besides agreeing on an annual meeting between Finance Ministers that would resolve trade-related irritants at the political level, India has also signed a defence cooperation agreement and a social security agreement.
Sources said that the accent on a comprehensive partnership in all fields had helped reverse South Korea's scepticism over India not being a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In 2007, the South Korean chief negotiator in the six-party talks with North Korea on the nuclear issue had said the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement could lead to North Korea asking, “why not us?”.
Available at: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2390038.ece?css=print
A construction accident at a next-generation prototype Russian nuclear power plant is alarming and shows a lack of transparency, Lithuanian officials say.
Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Audronius Azubalis said this week at a conference in Estonia that Russian nuclear power projects near his country are being carried out in secrecy and serious red flags about their safety have emerged.
Speaking at an event marking the 20th anniversary of Estonia's independence from Moscow, Azubalis said a July incident during the construction of the Leningrad-2 nuclear power plant showed that the design of a new generation of Russian of water-cooled, water-moderated reactors is dangerously flawed.
Lithuania, he said, was dismayed by "the non-compliance with international safety requirements at the nuclear power plants that are planned for construction in Lithuania's neighborhood," pointing to a July 17 incident in which construction was halted on the Leningrad-2 project.
The Russian nuclear energy company Rosenergoatom said the mishap occurred when construction crews were pouring the concrete for the outer protective shell of Unit 1 at the site about 50 miles west of St. Petersburg on the shores of the Gulf of Finland.
Shortly after the concrete was placed, the reinforcement cage began deforming about 26 feet above the ground, resulting in what officials said would be commissioning delay of several weeks, Itar-TASS reported.
Rosenergoatom said no "machine or mechanism was damaged" and blamed the accident on "a breach of construction technology by the subcontractor."
Russian officials said the incident didn't reflect on the safety or design integrity of the VVER-1200 water-cooler reactor, which is the cornerstone of the country's ambitious nuclear power expansion program.
Six such new reactors are planned around the country, including four at Leningrad, Kaliningrad and Udomlya, Russia -- which Vilnius considers is in its "neighborhood."
"Reactors of this type have four independent safety systems," Rosenergoatom Deputy Director General Sergei Boyarkin told the news agency. "They will be complemented with another two in this project. The probability of an accident is estimated as one per 10 million years."
The VVER series includes two 5-foot-thick concrete containment vessels around the reactor, which, he said, "can withstand even a plane crash. Therefore a release of radiation into the environment will be ruled out."
But such assurances haven't persuaded Lithuania.
Political director of Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Eitvydas Bajarunas said during a meeting with British Energy Security Envoy Adm. Neil Morisetti last week his country remained concerned with the "non-transparent ... realization of projects of nuclear power plants" in Russia and Belarus.
Bajarunas told Morisetti the Leningrad construction accident was discussed and both agreed "this is really worrisome because similar reactors are to be built near Lithuania," the Latvian online business publication Baltic Course reported.
Earlier this month Azubalis complained to Kaliningrad officials that residents of the Russian enclave weren't being allowed to vote on the building of the new nuclear plant there.
He said the lack of public consultation violates the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment, to which Russia is a signatory, The Moscow Times reported.
Lithuania is striving for energy security and independence from Moscow and is seeking to replace its own shuttered Ignalina power plant, which when it closed in 2009 was supplying most of the country electricity demand.
It sees the key issue it faces as moving ahead with such strategic energy projects meant to bring the Baltic region out from the energy isolation.
Available at: http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2011/08/24/Lithuania-vexed-by-Leningrad-nuke-mishap/UPI-93131314180540/
2. Nuclear Experts Warn of Libya "Dirty Bomb" Material
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A research centre near Tripoli has stocks of nuclear material that could be used to make a "dirty bomb", a former senior U.N. inspector said on Wednesday, warning of possible looting during turmoil in Libya.
Seeking to mend ties with the West, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi agreed in 2003 to abandon efforts to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons -- a move that brought him in from the cold and helped end decades of Libyan isolation.
A six-month popular insurgency has now forced Gaddafi to abandon his stronghold in the Libyan capital but continued gunfire suggests the rebels have not completely triumphed yet.
Olli Heinonen, head of U.N. nuclear safeguards inspections worldwide until last year, pointed to substantial looting that took place at Iraq's Tuwaitha atomic research facility near Baghdad after Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.
In Iraq, "most likely due to pure luck, the story did not end in a radiological disaster," Heinonen said.
In Libya, "nuclear security concerns still linger," the former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in an online commentary.
Libya's uranium enrichment programme was dismantled after Gaddafi renounced weapons of mass destruction eight years ago. Sensitive material and documentation including nuclear weapons design information were confiscated.
But the country's Tajoura research centre continues to stock large quantities of radioisotopes, radioactive waste and low-enriched uranium fuel after three decades of nuclear research and radioisotope production, Heinonen said.
Refined uranium can have civilian as well as military purposes, if enriched much further.
"While we can be thankful that the highly enriched uranium stocks are no longer in Libya, the remaining material in Tajoura could, if it ended up in the wrong hands, be used as ingredients for dirty bombs," Heinonen, now at Harvard University, said.
"The situation at Tajoura today is unclear. We know that during times of regime collapse, lawlessness and looting reign."
A so-called dirty bomb can combine conventional explosives such as dynamite with radioactive material.
Experts describe the threat of a crude fissile nuclear bomb, which is technically difficult to manufacture and requires hard-to-obtain bomb-grade uranium or plutonium, as a "low probability, high consequence act" -- unlikely but with the potential to cause large-scale harm to life and property.
But a "dirty bomb", where conventional explosives are used to disperse radiation from a radioactive source, is a "high probability, low consequence act" with more potential to terrorise than cause large loss of life.
"There are a number of nuclear and radiological materials at Tajoura that could be used by terrorists to create a dirty bomb," said Mark Fitzpatrick, a director at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank.
There was no immediate comment from the IAEA on the Tajoura facility. A document posted on the IAEA's website said it was a 10 megawatt reactor located 34 km (20 miles) east of the Libyan capital.
The Vienna-based U.N. agency has been involved in technical aid projects in Libya, including at Tajoura.
Heinonen said Libya's rebel Transitional National Council would need to be aware of the material at Tajoura. Once a transition takes place it should "take the necessary steps to secure these potentially dangerous radioactive sources".
Fitzpatrick said the looting that occurred at Iraq's Tuwaitha centre "should stand as a lesson for the need for nuclear security precautions in the situation today in Libya."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/24/libya-nuclear-heinonen-idUSLDE77N0GL20110824
Eletronuclear has announced a five-year program of actions to evaluate and improve safety, security and reliability at Brazil's only operating nuclear power plant in response to the Fukushima accident.
The state company owns and operates two pressurized water reactors at Angra, while a third reactor is under construction there and due to enter commercial operation in 2016. A working group it set up in response to the 11 March earthquake and tsunami that hit the Japanese nuclear power plant has now delivered its first report, and a budget of BRL300 million ($187 million) has been allocated to a five-year plan of improvements to nuclear safety and security for this sole nuclear power site.
The first step of the program, running up to the end of the year, will be to complete more extensive studies. After this the company will work through a list of actions prioritised according to risk. The company says it has already performed a series of short-term checks as proposed by the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO), and has initiated the development of 'stress tests' for Angra 1 and 2, based on patterns developed by the Western European Nuclear Regulator's Association (WENRA), to assess the ability of the plants to cope with severe accidents and scenarios beyond their design basis.
The reviews are not expected to have any impact on Brazil's plans for future nuclear power plants beyond the incorporation of any technical lessons learned, the company said. From about 2015 the country wants to begin work on a new four-reactor nuclear power plant in the country's northeast and Eletronuclear had been expected to present a range of siting options for that and further build in the middle of this year.
Reassessments of Angra's ability to withstand natural risks, including earthquakes, waves, flooding by excessive rainfall, landslides and tornadoes are taking place. The plants are already equipped to handle sea surges of up to four metres, but the company intends to set up a system to monitor sea movements during severe weather outside the bay where the plants are located to evaluate whether this is sufficient. Brazil's distance from the edge of any tectonic plate means that there is no tsunami risk even if a strong earthquake were to occur at the site, the company notes.
Simulation studies on the effects of flooding from excessive rain suggest that drainage networks would be able to withstand a 'once-in-1000-years' storm. Even in the case of a once-in-10,000-years excessive fall of rain, any leakage from the drainage systems would not be sufficient to flood the buildings. However, the company plans to expand studies to simulate obstructions to water outflows to identify whether further measures should be taken.
In preparation for the mitigation of severe accidents, Eletronuclear is also conducting studies into the installation of a small hydroelectric plant in the region dedicated to providing backup power to the plants in the case of a total loss of all of Angra's 12 emergency diesel backup generators. In terms of emergency planning, it is looking at the possibility of providing routes by sea and air as well as by road in the event that alternative means of evacuation other than road is needed.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-Brazil_outlines_post-Fukushima_actions-2308118.html
A federal commission announced approval Wednesday for a uranium enrichment plant in southeastern New Mexico to begin operating more of its massive processing system, which would double the facility's capacity to process nuclear fuel.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has authorized Urenco USA and subsidiary Louisiana Energy Services to bring online two additional sequential enrichment systems, known as cascades. Although Urenco is tightlipped about its technology and its customers, the enriched uranium it produces can be used to supply fuel for nuclear power plants domestically and overseas.
It is a key expansion for the facility that opened last summer, when the nuclear commission's authorization made it the first major nuclear facility licensed in the U.S. in three decades.
Urenco spokesman Don Johnson said the company is thrilled. "Cascades 1 and 2 have been spinning and producing all along and our focus remains, as it has always been, on bringing new cascades online to join them."
Employees began loading uranium stock into the newly authorized cascades Wednesday, and officials expected both to be running within a few days.
The cascades, made up of numerous high-tech centrifuges, are central to the way the plant near Eunice enriches uranium. The process employs an elaborate network of pipes, electrical systems and sensors in sterile, gymnasium-sized halls.
Uranium, in its natural state, doesn't contain enough of a particular nuclear isotope to work as fuel in certain power plants. The enrichment process can greatly boost the necessary isotope concentration.
Authorization for the two additional cascades followed nuclear commission inspections earlier this year. The agency said in a statement that the inspections provided reasonable assurance that the design, construction and use of safety items will "protect against natural phenomena and the consequences of potential accidents."
The agency inspectors looked at everything from paper receipts to the steel works that connect the centrifuges inside the cascade halls. They also interviewed employees and contractors.
About 350 employees work at the plant, along with another 700 construction workers.
The work force is expected to remain stable for the foreseeable future despite the authorization and the start-up of the two cascades, Johnson said.
However, the company is considering another expansion that would again double the plant's capacity. Funding is available for design and other preliminary studies, but Johnson said federal approval would be needed to build on to the plant.
In a region where pump jacks dot the landscape and oil field service trucks keep the road hot, elected officials have been anxiously watching the Urenco plant grow. They see it as a key element in Lea County's effort to diversify its economy beyond the boom-and-bust cycle of oil and natural gas development.
Last year, the county rebranded itself as the EnergyPlex, a place where everything from oil and natural gas to nuclear and renewable energy has been welcomed.
Dividends are already being paid in the form of jobs, new housing and businesses, and additional tax revenue.
New companies are also looking to locate in the region. One of them is Idaho-based International Isotopes Inc., which plans to build a nuclear facility west of Hobbs.
Louisiana Energy Services and International Isotopes agreed last year that International Isotopes would provide uranium deconversion services for the enrichment plant.
International Isotopes plans to use its proposed facility to deconvert the depleted uranium tails that result from the enrichment process. It would also simultaneously extract fluorine gases that could be sold for use in manufacturing solar panels and medical equipment.
International Isotopes announced Wednesday that it now holds title to 640 acres about 25 miles from the enrichment plant following a land transfer agreement with the state and the Economic Development Corp. of Lea County. The company plans to use about 40 of the acres to build its plant once licensed by the nuclear commission.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hMGzayd1w1VlomKfpTd9J1TJJusQ?docId=f54ac8020f22487190013724f5870a37
2. NRC: No Damage at Nuclear Plants from Earthquake
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The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission says no major damage has been found at the 12 nuclear power plant sites that got inspections but were not shut down following an earthquake that rattled the East Coast.
NRC Northeast region spokeswoman Diane Screnci says the "unusual event" status has been canceled at the sites in an area that spans from North Carolina to Michigan.
She says their operators and NRC inspectors did not find problems during walk-downs of the plants and it appears there was no threat to public safety.
The sites that shook on Tuesday include New Jersey's Oyster Creek plant, the nation's oldest operating nuclear power plant.
The twin reactors at the North Anna facility near the Virginia epicenter were shut down and remained so Wednesday morning.
Available at: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/08/24/3858189/nrc-no-damage-at-nuclear-plants.html
1. France Accuses Iran of "Provocation" Over New Nuclear Installations
Kuwait News Agency
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The French government on Wednesday accused Iran of "a new provocation" and a fresh violation of UN Security Council resolutions because of the installation of centrifuges used to enrich uranium at the Qom-Ferdow plant that had been built clandestinely.
"On August 22, the Iranian authorities announced the installation of new centrifuges in the underground uranium enrichment plant at Qom-Ferdow," a French Foreign Ministry statement remarked here.
"This decision is a new provocation vis-a-vis the international community and it violates the Security Council resolutions which demand the suspension of enrichment activities," the statement added.
The Security Council has passed a total of six resolutions on Iran's nuclear and ballistic programmes, four of them calling on Iran to halt "sensitive" nuclear activities like enrichment and urging Iran to fully cooperate in a transparent manner with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The IAEA and several members of the 5+1 group negotiating with Iran have expressed serious concerns about the finality of the Iranian nuclear programme and France has said several times that this programme has "no credible civilian end." Iran denies any military component in its nuclear activities but the parallel development of an advanced ballistic missile programme has also worried some observers.
"Nothing justifies the pursuit of these activities, or even their transfer to a new installation that was hidden for a long time from the international community," the French statement said of the Iranian decision to place centrifuges in Qom rather than in their usual location in Natanz.
"Iran must put an end to these violations and cooperate with the IAEA," the statement urged.
Available at: http://www.kuna.net.kw/NewsAgenciesPublicSite/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2186779&Language=en
2. Inhofe: Iran Will Be Able to Hit US With WMD by 2015
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Many politicians in both parties are worried about Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities. And Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., put it in stark terms during a speech Monday, the Tulsa World reports.
"We know, and it is not even classified for me to tell you today, that Iran will have the capability of delivering a weapon of mass destruction to western Europe and the eastern United States by 2015," said Inhofe, the second-ranking member on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. "I see that as the most imminent threat to this country right now. So that is a problem we are going to have deal with."
Separately, Inhofe said the United States must strengthen its alliances around the world with nations such as Israel.
Available at: http://www.newsmax.com/US/Inhofe-WMD-Iran-nuclear/2011/08/24/id/408542
3. Iran Tests Bushehr N. Power Plant's Reactor Turbine
Fars News Agency
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Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Fereidoon Abbasi announced that the country has successfully tested the turbine of the reactor of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, and said the plant is reaching full power generation capacity.Iran Tests Bushehr N. Power Plant's Reactor Turbine
"Yesterday, tests of the turbine of the reactor of the Bushehr nuclear power plant have been successfully carried out at 3000 revolutions," Abbasi told reporters on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting here in Tehran on Wednesday.
He mentioned that the reactor has reached 400 megawatts of power generation capacity now, and added that preparatory measures are underway to start the final prelaunch phase of the plant, as scheduled.
Iran had announced that its first nuclear power plant will join the national power grid by the end of August.
"We hope that the Bushehr power plant would become operational by the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan (late August)," Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast said earlier this year.
Mehman-Parast added that construction phase of the plant "has almost completed and it is currently in the testing stage".
Iran signed a deal with Russia in 1995, according to which the plant was originally scheduled for completion in 1999. However, the project was repeatedly delayed by the Russian side due to the intense pressure exerted on Moscow by the United States and its western allies. Russia finally completed construction of the plant last summer.
On October 26, Iran started injecting fuel into the core of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in the initial phase of launching the nuclear reactor.
The facility operates under the full supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Available at: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=9006020115
1. Expert Urges Higher Radiation Exposure Limit to be Set for Fukushima
The Mainichi Daily News
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A Japanese nuclear expert called Tuesday for the planned annual radiation exposure limit for residents in areas close to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to be set at up to 5 millisieverts, instead of 1 millisievert as planned by the government.
The 5 millisievert limit would be more realistic for lifting evacuation advisories for residents as the government's planned annual limit of 1 millisievert or less may not be met in some areas, said Shunichi Tanaka, a former acting chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission.
The government plans to include the annual limit of 1 millisievert when it drafts a basic radioactive decontamination policy on Friday.
"Past experience of decontamination has shown it would be very difficult to reduce annual radiation exposure to 1 millisievert," Tanaka told a regular meeting of the commission. Tanaka has engaged in decontamination work in such areas as Iitate close to the nuclear plant, which released radioactive substances following explosions at reactor buildings after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Last week, the government estimated annual radiation exposure of more than 100 millisieverts at 15 of 50 points located within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant. The highest estimate exceeded 500 millisieverts.
Tanaka also expressed doubt about the advisability of a Food Safety Commission recommendation that combined external and internal radiation exposure be limited to 100 millisieverts over a lifetime, saying it would be difficult for people to live in many areas of Fukushima Prefecture.
Tanaka noted that controlled storage sites may have to be designated in Fukushima Prefecture as decontamination is expected to generate tens of millions of tons of radioactive waste including soil.
Available at: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110824p2g00m0dm018000c.html
2. Japan Triples Airborne Radiation Checks as ‘Hot Spots’ Spread
Tsuyoshi Inajima and Yuji Okada
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Japan will more than triple the number of regions it checks for airborne radiation as more contaminated “hot spots” are discovered far from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima nuclear power station.
The government said it will increase radiation monitoring by helicopter to 22 prefectures from the six closest to the plant, which began spewing radiation after an earthquake and tsunami struck the station in March. The plan comes after radioactive waste more than double the regulatory limit was found 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the plant this week.
Authorities have refused to give a cumulative figure for radiation released from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant after estimating in June that fallout in the six days following the quake was equal to 15 percent of total radiation released in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. The authorities have been too slow to widen airborne radiation testing, said Tetsuo Ito, the head of Kinki University’s Atomic Energy Research Institute in Osaka.
“The government should have expanded the monitoring area by helicopters much earlier to ease concerns among the public,” Ito said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Officials on Aug. 12 found compost in a kindergarten yard in Tokamachi city, Niigata prefecture containing radioactive cesium measuring 27,000 becquerels per kilogram, Kenichiro Kasuga, an official at the city’s disaster prevention department, said by phone.
Under Japanese law, waste measuring over 8,000 becquerels per kilogram must be treated as radioactive waste and can’t be buried in a landfill.
City officials found sludge measuring 18,900 becquerels per kilogram from radioactive cesium on the same day as part of tests done at 60 educational and childcare facilities, Kasuga said.
The city government is storing the waste in drums until the government sets final guidelines for its disposal, he said.
“We still don’t know why this level of cesium was found in the compost,” Kasuga said.
The hotspots in Niigata were likely caused by wind blowing northwest towards the prefecture in the days following the Fukushima accident, Kinki University’s Ito said.
The government will begin monitoring radiation levels in 16 prefectures from Aomori, in the far north of the main island of Honshu, to Aichi in central Japan 460 kilometers (290 miles) from the plant by the end of October, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said in a statement on its website yesterday.
Radiation monitoring has taken place in four other prefectures and in Gunma and the western part of Fukushima prefecture, said Hirotaka Oku, a spokesman at the science and technology ministry.
Checks in Ibaraki and Yamagata prefecture were completed in August and the findings will be released soon, he said, without specifying when.
The discovery of radiation at Niigata kindergartens coincides with the start of the rice harvest in the prefecture that was the country’s biggest producer last year with 7 percent of the total.
Radiation from Dai-Ichi has already been found in food including beef, tea and spinach.
So far, early tests on rice haven’t detected radiation, Shingo Gocho, assistant director in Niigata prefecture’s agricultural division said by phone yesterday. The government is taking samples from 45 areas in 29 villages, towns and cities that make up the prefecture’s growing area, he said. The crops won’t be shipped until the results are known, he said.
Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare plans to conduct radiation checks in food produced in about 100 cities, towns and villages in 14 prefectures because local governments hadn’t tested produce by the end of July despite requests by the central government, said an official at the ministry, who declined to be identified, citing internal rules.
The central government will become move involved in testing food to ease concerns among consumers and provide more data, the official said. Radiation checks on produce including vegetables, meat and eggs will be carried out at the National Institute of Health Sciences and the findings will be released as soon as possible, the official said.
Tokyo Electric’s Dai-Ichi plant released about 770,000 tera becquerels of radioactive materials between March 11 and March 16, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said on June 6. Japan’s government is under-reporting the amount of airborne radiation across the country, said Tom Gill, an anthropology professor at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo, citing his studies in Fukushima prefecture since March.
The “maximum” radiation level given for Fukushima prefecture on Aug. 13 was 2.64 microsieverts per hour in the village of Iitate 40 kilometers northwest of the Dai-Ichi plant, Gill said, according to figures from the Science Ministry published daily in national newspapers.
That compares with the official reading in the village itself the next day of 14.2 microsieverts per hour, he said, showing a picture he took of the reading on that day. He was speaking at a presentation in Yokohama near Tokyo on Aug. 19.
The government excludes the highest readings among 20 measuring stations in the village from the data it collates for publication, Gill said.
“Distrust and cynicism of central government is pretty much universal across Fukushima now,” he said.
Medical tests on children living in three towns near the plant between March 24 and 30 found 45 percent of those surveyed suffered low-level thyroid radiation exposure, Japan’s government said earlier this month.
Children are more susceptible to poisoning from radioactive iodine, which can accumulate in the thyroid and cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization. None of the children’s thyroid glands exceeded the safety threshold of 0.2 microsievert per hour set by the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, the government said at the time.
The Fukushima disaster is the worst since a reactor exploded at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union 25 years ago. About 2 million people in Ukraine are still under permanent medical monitoring, according to the nation’s embassy in Tokyo.
A becquerel represents one radioactive decay per second, which involves the release of atomic energy that can damage human cells and DNA, with prolonged exposure causing leukemia and other forms of cancer, the World Nuclear Association says.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-24/japan-triples-air-radiation-checks-for-hot-spots-.html
The nuclear regulatory agency has ordered utilities to further review data on the quake-resistance of their nuclear reactors after Kansai Electric Power Co. found errors in such data in its 2009 report.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency expects the review to be completed by October at the latest.
Nuclear plant operators must first finish the review before having the plants undergo stress tests required by the government amid the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. The tests were introduced to allay public concerns about the safety of nuclear power.
A NISA official said that despite Monday's review order, he doesn't think utilities will experience a "significant delay" in submitting the outcome of the stress tests.
Utilities are required to clear the first round of the government's two-stage stress tests before being allowed to restart reactors idled for regular maintenance and checkups.
Over the past month, some errors have been uncovered in quake-safety data, leading NISA to issue orders aimed at enhancing the data's credibility. The latest order would make the companies check the data more broadly.
The No. 7 reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture was suspended early Tuesday for an 83-day scheduled checkup, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.
The reactor's suspension means only 14 of the nation's 54 commercial reactors are currently in operation. It will leave only reactors 5 and 6 operating at the plant, the biggest nuclear power complex in the world in terms of output power.
Tepco is required to undertake a newly introduced safety assessment procedure before restarting the reactor.
However, Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida has expressed a cautious stance toward resumption of the reactor after the checkup and safety assessment, saying it is necessary to first examine the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
Available at: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20110824a5.html
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