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Nuclear News - 9/15/2011
PGS Nuclear News, September 15, 2011
Compiled By: Michael Kennedy

A.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. French Nuclear Watchdog Sought Safety Improvements at Blast Site, Tara Patel, Bloomberg, Bloomberg (9/14/2011)
    2. French FM: France to Have Safety Checks on Every Nuclear Power Plant Nationwide, Xinhua News Agency (9/14/2011)
    3. Nuclear Agency's Board Adopts Safety Plan, George Jahn, Associated Press (9/13/2011)
    4. Manila Port Gets Radiation Detection Equipment, All Headline News (9/13/2011)
    5. Missing: Tons of US-Supplied Nuclear Weapons Material, Adam Weinstein, Mother Jones (9/13/2011)
    6. New Materials Could Help Find Hidden Nuclear Weapons, Kate Taylor, TG Daily  (9/13/2011)
B.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. David Cameron Unveils Rolls-Royce Deal in Russia, The Telegraph (9/15/2011)
    2. Iranian, Russian Experts Ink 2 Protocols on N. Cooperation, Fars News Agency (9/12/2011)
C.  Japan
    1. New Japan PM Noda in Nuclear Restart Call, BBC News (9/13/2011)
    2. Schroeder: Japan Can Form Energy Policy Without Nuclear Power, The Mainichi Daily News (9/13/2011)
    3. Japan Puts Ex-Spokesman in Charge of Nuclear Crisis, Yoko Kubota, Reuters (9/12/2011)
D.  Iran
    1. Iran Identifies 34 Sites for N-Plants, Press TV (9/13/2011)
    2. Iran Nuke Chief to Attend IAEA Meeting, UPI (9/13/2011)
E.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Europeans Reignite Fusion Energy Project, Stuart Nathan, Technology Review (9/15/2011)
    2. UAE Energy Minister: We Won't Change Our Nuclear Energy Plans, Adrian Filut, Globes Online (9/14/2011)
    3. Tamil Nadu Nuclear Plant Row Escalates, Dakshina Muraleedharan, IBN Live (9/14/2011)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. On Iran's Nuclear Program, Science Contradicts Rhetoric, Ali Vaez and Charles Ferguson, The Atlantic (9/13/2011)
    2. Betting Big on Nuclear Energy, Ken Silverstein, EnergyBiz (9/12/2011)
    3. Nuclear Plan Conflicts with New Budget Realities, Nickolas Roth, Hans M. Kristensen and Stephen Young, FAS Strategic Security Blog (9/12/2011)
    4. Nuclear Nonproliferation: U.S. Agencies Have Limited Ability to Account for, Monitor, and Evaluate the Security of U.S. Nuclear Material Overseas, U.S. Government Accountability Office (9/8/2011)

A.  Nuclear Safety & Security

French FM: France to Have Safety Checks on Every Nuclear Power Plant Nationwide
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

Alain Juppe, the French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs and State Minister, said on Tuesday in Beijing that France would soon conduct a nationwide examination on each of its nuclear power plants.

The French government will also cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to raise the maximum security level of its nuclear installations, according to Juppe.

The French government had already decided to continue its nuclear programs after the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, said Juppe.

Currently, nuclear power plants generate about 80 percent of France's total electricity.

Concerning the nuclear accident in the south of France, Juppe said he hadn't got the latest news of the investIgation, but French authorities would announce the results of investigation with the utmost transparency.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Yukiya Amano said on Monday that the IAEA had sent a request to French authorities for more information and underlined the need to address nuclear safety.

An explosion hit France's Marcoule nuclear site on Monday, one person was killed and four injured in the accident. The country's energy ministry said there was no danger of a radiation leak.

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French Nuclear Watchdog Sought Safety Improvements at Blast Site
Tara Patel, Bloomberg
(for personal use only)

The French atomic regulator repeatedly sought safety improvements at a nuclear-waste processing site owned by Electricite de France SA before this week’s explosion that killed one person and injured four.

An investigation into the Sept. 12 accident at the Centraco plant in southern France “will show whether it had to do with the safety lapses we uncovered,” said Jean-Christophe Niel, who heads the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, or ASN.

The plant in the town of Codolet wasn’t previously shut down because the ASN “felt the situation was moving in the right direction,” Niel said today at a Paris press conference.

The explosion and fire at the low-level nuclear waste processing site spurred calls for France to toughen safety tests begun in the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima atomic disaster.

The accident happened just three days before EDF, operator of the country’s 58 reactors, and other operators of atomic sites were due to report back to the ASN on their ability to withstand emergencies such as earthquakes, floods and cuts to power and cooling systems.

The Centraco plant wasn’t included among the 80 “priority” sites for which safety audits will be carried out by the regulator before the end of the year.

Socodei, the EDF unit that operates the site, was aiming to expand operations because of the need to treat increasing amounts of waste from reactors, according to the ASN’s 2010 annual report. The plant incinerates or melts waste including low-level radioactive metals.

The watchdog called in the head of Centraco in November 2008 to discuss safety “gaps” and progress was noted at the end of last year in improving the situation, the report states.

The agency said today it had asked for a plan to improve safety at the site in 2008 and carried out nine inspections there in 2009, five in 2010 and five this year, including one surprise visit during the night of May 31.

The ASN has put online letters and documents about prior incidents that include surpassing limits on the amount of radioactive effluents from the plant and malfunctioning fire and radiation detectors. Following the surprise inspection in May, the ASN asked Socodei to improve its ability to cope with potential accident situations.

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Manila Port Gets Radiation Detection Equipment
All Headline News
(for personal use only)

The governments of the Philippines and the United States formally inaugurated on Tuesday the upgrade of radiation detection equipment designed to further increase security measures at the Port of Manila.

The radiation detection systems are part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Megaports Initiative to help deter, detect, and interdict illicit shipments of nuclear and other radioactive materials that might pass through international gateways such as seaports.

The equipment was installed at Asian Terminal Incorporated’s (ATI) South Harbor and the International Container Terminal Services, Inc.’s (ICTSI) Manila International Container Terminal.

The U.S. government contributed $26 million to set up the Philippine facility. The U.S. DOE has to date deployed Megaports equipment in 38 major seaports worldwide.

The commissioning highlighted the decades-long relationship between the two countries and the more recent cooperation to prevent nuclear proliferation and combat nuclear smuggling.

“Our cooperation with our Philippine partners underscores our shared commitment to increase security for cargo shipments and prevent illegal trafficking of nuclear materials,” said U.S. ambassador Harry K. Thomas, Jr. in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Philippines to enhance global peace and security as we work to implement the nuclear security agenda outlined by President Obama and our international partners.”

“Megaports helps the Philippines meet a variety of goals. During the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, the radiation portal monitors installed at the Port of Manila were used in screening food shipments to ensure consumer safety,” said Philippine Nuclear Research Institute Director Dr. Alumanda M. dela Rosa.

In 2005, the U.S. DOE signed a memorandum of intent with the Philippines Department of Science and Technology to implement the Megaports Initiative in the Philippines. The Port of Manila is a key port in Southeast Asia and one of the major feeder ports in Singapore, China, and Japan.

The Port of Manila is the first site in the Philippines to become operational. The Megaports Initiative will install the radiation detection equipment at the Port of Cebu next.

The Megaports Initiative is part of the U.S. DOE’s Second Line of Defense (SLD) Program, which works collaboratively with foreign governments at land border crossings, airports, and seaports to install radiation detection equipment and associated communications equipment.

The program also provides training to operate systems that detect smuggled nuclear and other radioactive materials.

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Missing: Tons of US-Supplied Nuclear Weapons Material
Adam Weinstein
Mother Jones
(for personal use only)

The United States cannot fully account for more than 16,000 kilograms tons of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium that it has shipped to 27 "friendly" countries in recent decades, and it lacks any coherent policy to track down the materials, a Government Accountability Office report concluded late last week. In fact, according to auditors, the country's atomic accounting is so shoddy that the International Atomic Energy Agency—the same agency sent to search for Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction—could potentially find the United States in violation of its international anti-proliferation treaty obligations. Even as it has fretted about Iranian nuclear proliferation and alleged Iraqi purchases of yellowcake uranium from Africa, the United States has lost track of enough fissile material to make hundreds of nuclear warhead cores.

At issue are bilateral agreements the US holds with 27 nations, from France to Taiwan, for the transfer of American nuclear materials—fuel, reactors, and reactor components—for "peaceful civilian purposes." (It's even conceivable, though not easily determined, that US material may have been present at the Marcoule nuclear plant in France where an explosion killed one worker Monday.) Although the United States has a database, the Nuclear Materials Management and Safeguard System, to track the transfers, the GAO found that the '50s-era system is more or less useless today: Most of the bilateral export agreements give the US no official power to supervise what happens with the uranium, plutonium, and other materials they fork over. Hence much of the material leaves American sight, and officials simply take the other nations' word that the stuff has ended up in a civilian reactor.

The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversee the export of nuclear material to US allies for use in atomic power plants, "do not have a comprehensive, detailed, current inventory of U.S. nuclear material—including weapon-usable material such as highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium—overseas," the GAO report said. Worse still, on the rare occasions when State Department inspectors gained access to the allies' stockpiles of American radioactive products, all the way up to last year, "U.S. teams found that countries met international security guidelines approximately 50 percent of the time."

That's just for the countries that US inspectors actually visited—in other words, the countries that probably pose the smallest concern. "[T]he agencies have not systematically visited countries believed to be holding the highest proliferation risk quantities of U.S. nuclear material, or systematically revisited facilities not meeting international physical security guidelines in a timely manner," the GAO stated.

That could be a major violation of America's international treaty obligations. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which the United States signed, requires that nuclear export agreements "should commit parties to establish and maintain a system of accounting for nuclear material, with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses," the GAO report said.

The DOE's beleaguered atomic security arm, the National Nuclear Security Administration, issued an official response accusing the GAO of "errors in fact and judgment" in its report. "NNSA is working with other partners to secure weapons-usable nuclear materials in additional parts of the world and to strengthen security at civil nuclear and radiological facilities," wrote NNSA associate administrator Kenneth Powers. "We recognize that further work is needed and we are working with our partners to improve international security."

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New Materials Could Help Find Hidden Nuclear Weapons
Kate Taylor
TG Daily
(for personal use only)

Northwestern University scientists say they've taken a big step towards a handheld device for detecting nuclear weapons and materials such as a 'bomb in a suitcase'.

The technology is based on a new material that can be used to detect hard radiation - previously a very difficult thing to do.

"The terrorist attacks of 9/11 heightened interest in this area of security, but the problem remains a real challenge," says Mercouri G Kanatzidis, who led the research.

"We have designed promising semiconductor materials that, once optimized, could be a fast, effective and inexpensive method for detecting dangerous materials such as plutonium and

Kanatzidis and his team developed a method called dimensional reduction to make new semiconductor materials of heavy elements in which most of the compound's electrons are bound up and not mobile. When gamma rays enter the compound, they excite the electrons, making them mobile and thus detectable. And, because every element has a particular spectrum, the signal identifies the detected material.

In most materials, gamma rays emitted by nuclear materials would just pass right through, making them undetectable. But dense and heavy materials, such as mercury, thallium, selenium and cesium, absorb the gamma rays very effectively.

Unfortunately, the heavy elements have a lot of mobile electrons, meaning that when the
gamma rays hit the material and excite electrons the change is impossible to detect.

"It's like having a bucket of water and adding one drop - the change is negligible," says Kanatzidis. "We needed a heavy element material without a lot of electrons. This doesn't exist naturally, so we had to design a new material."

The team's semiconductor materials were designed to be crystalline in structure, immobilizing their electrons. They comprise cesium-mercury-sulfide and cesium-mercury-selenide, both of which operate at room temperature, and the process is scaleable.

"Our materials are very promising and competitive," says Kanatzidis. "With further development, they should outperform existing hard radiation detector materials. They also might be useful in biomedicine, such as diagnostic imaging."

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Nuclear Agency's Board Adopts Safety Plan
George Jahn
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

A 35-nation meeting of the U.N. nuclear agency on Tuesday adopted a post-Fukushima nuclear safety plan — despite gripes by influential member nations that it to too timid for making compliance voluntary.

Germany and several other EU states — as well as Canada, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand — are unhappy with the plan because it does not obligate countries to allow outside monitoring of their civilian nuclear programs and gives the International Atomic Energy Agency no enforcement powers on safety.

Board member nations adopted the document by consensus, but not before Canada aired grievances shared by other critics in an unusually blunt statement.

"The draft Action Plan before Governors today will be seen as a timid response by the Agency," said Canada's statement to the closed meeting.

Canada said the plan is neither as comprehensive as recommended by a special post-Fukushima IAEA conference attended by dozens of government ministers in June, nor recommendations by IAEA chief Yakima Amman.

"It is disappointing, therefore, that the draft contains few new commitments and little in the way of increased transparency or safety peer reviews," said the statement, which was made available to The Associated Press.

It chastised both the agency and its member states for missing "an opportunity to make necessary reforms to the global nuclear safety framework."

Earlier in the debate on the plan, which began Monday, Ruediger Luedeking, Germany's chief IAEA representative, said the document "does not fully meet our expectations."

Suggesting that the text was vague and too nonbinding in nature, Luedeking said Germany would have wanted a plan in which member states' commitments to peer reviews and IAEA oversight of their civilian nuclear programs had been "more clearly and stringently set out."
Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Argentina were chief opponents of giving the IAEA more authority to police nuclear safety, said a diplomat from an IAEA member state attending the

But the United States was also comfortable with the decision to strip the plan of language entrusting the agency with more clout that was present in earlier drafts and leaving oversight to governments, national safety authorities and power companies, he said. Such a stance reflects Washington's strong belief in domestic regulatory bodies having full control of nuclear safety.

The six-page document outlines steps to be taken by states with civilian nuclear programs to establish weaknesses in their networks and remedy them. But these measures — whether they are peer reviews, IAEA safety checks, or other proposals meant to improve nuclear safety — can only be carried out "upon request" of the nation involved.

Instead of being required to do so, member states are "strongly encouraged to voluntarily" open their facilities to outside checks of potential weak links that could result in a nuclear disaster.

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B.  Nuclear Cooperation

David Cameron Unveils Rolls-Royce Deal in Russia
The Telegraph
(for personal use only)

Rolls-Royce, the global power systems company, is to collaborate with Russian state-owned atomic energy corporation, Rosatom, in the area of civil nuclear power.

The agreement between the two companies follows the joint announcement by UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, in which the two countries pledged to work more closely in a number of areas, including civil nuclear power.

Speaking in Moscow, Mr Cameron said: "Today we have taken a step forward in our co-operation with Russia. We have agreed to work together on a range of issues, including the development of nuclear energy and I'm delighted that this means Rolls-Royce will be working with Rosatom to bring benefits to the UK, supporting 250 companies here and safeguarding thousands of jobs."

Sir Simon Robertson, the Chairman of Rolls-Royce, who is in Moscow as part of the Prime Minister's official delegation, said: "I am delighted to personally sign this important agreement with Rosatom. Our two companies are world class and I believe that this collaboration will yield significant benefits as nuclear reactor new-build programmes develop globally.

"Importantly, we will be working to ensure that this collaboration maximises opportunities for the UK supply chain to expand its capability and capacity, build a strong export base and so benefit from global new build programmes."

Cyril Komarov, Deputy Director General, Rosatom said: "Rolls-Royce is clearly an attractive partner for us and I look forward to our companies developing a strong relationship and working together closely in the future as we explore future opportunities."

Rolls-Royce has significant nuclear skills, with a large existing nuclear certified supply chain, and supports a number of key phases of the nuclear programme, including providing advice to governments and operators, supply chain management expertise, as well as manufacturing and technical engineering support. The Group also provides safety-critical instrumentation and control systems to all 58 operating nuclear power facilities in France and to more than 50 others across Europe, the U.S. and wider international markets.

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Iranian, Russian Experts Ink 2 Protocols on N. Cooperation
Fars News Agency
(for personal use only)

Head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) Sergei Kiriyenko announced that Iranian and Russian officials have signed two protocols on nuclear cooperation.

"The first protocol is related to using the experience of Fukushima (nuclear power plant in Japan which faced crisis after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March) and increasing the safety of the Iranian and Russian power plants," Kiriyenko said on the sidelines of a ceremony held to launch Iran's first nuclear power plant in the Southern port city of Bushehr on Monday.

"The other (protocol) is related to the cooperation of the Russian personnel with the (Iranian) Bushehr nuclear power plant exploitation company and this cooperation will continue until the complete launch of the power plant," he added.

On March 11, a nine-magnitude earthquake, off the northeast coast of Japan's main island, unleashed a devastating tsunami and was followed by more than 50 aftershocks.

The incident led to fires, explosions or partial meltdowns of six reactor units in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after it knocked out power to the facility's cooling systems.

The destruction has also been followed by a radiation leak and nuclear fallout has been reported in many places across the world.

Despite the propaganda campaign launched by the US-led West against the safety of Iran's nuclear facilities, the UN nuclear watchdog agency as the sole specialized world body has repeatedly approved the high quality of Iran's nuclear safety standards.

The Nuclear Safety and Security Department of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had also in a visit to Iran in March 2010 approved the standard safety levels of all Iranian nuclear sites and installations, and lauded the country's measures and special efforts in this regard.

"We realized that Iran's safety system responsible for inspecting Iranian nuclear facilities and installations acts very well and is strong," Head of the IAEA's Nuclear Safety and Security Department Olena Mykolaichuk said at the time.

"I, as the head of the (inspection) team, assure the Iranian society that Iran's installations are fully safe…," Mykolaichuk added.

She also stressed that her team had visited the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Southern Iran and inspected the safety and security control system at the installations.

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C.  Japan

New Japan PM Noda in Nuclear Restart Call
BBC News
(for personal use only)

New Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has called for nuclear plants halted after the Fukushima crisis to be restarted.

But in his first policy speech since taking office, he told parliament that Japan should aim to reduce its reliance on nuclear power in the long term.

He said earthquake reconstruction and economic rebuilding would be his twin priorities.

And he warned of possible tax rises to tackle Japan's public debt problem.

Mr Noda, who is Japan's sixth prime minister in five years, took office less than two weeks ago after predecessor Naoto Kan stepped down.

Mr Kan had called for Japan to abandon nuclear power, but Mr Noda said that plants offline since the 11 March earthquake and tsunami should be restarted to meet power shortages.

"It is not productive to see things in simple black and white, and talk in either anti-nuclear or pro-nuclear terms," he said.

"We must move towards our mid- and long-term goals of lowering, as much as possible, our reliance on nuclear energy."

Local communities have opposed reactor restarts after routine maintenance, meaning two-thirds are offline.

Mr Noda pledged a rethink on energy policy within a year and vowed to increase the use of renewable energy.

Calling earthquake reconstruction work the top priority, he said that the cabinet's "other top priority will be rebuilding the Japanese economy".

The high yen threatened to undermine both industry and reconstruction, he warned.

"We hear screams from exporters and from the small and mid-sized companies that have led our country's industries. If things carry on like this, domestic industries could go downhill and jobs could be lost.

"If that happens, it would be almost impossible to break out of deflation and reconstruct areas hit by the disaster."

He said the government needed to take "every possible policy measure in co-operation with the Bank of Japan".

Acknowledging the multiple leadership changes of recent years, he said politicians were perceived as delaying decisions on how to reduce Japan's huge public debt.

He said he would study new tax measures and cut spending, but gave few details.

And he issued a call for political unity, saying that politicians, bureaucrats and the business sector needed to co-operate.

"Let's come together and rally our strengths to overcome this time of historical adversity and bring about a rebirth of Japan," he said.

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Schroeder: Japan Can Form Energy Policy Without Nuclear Power
The Mainichi Daily News
(for personal use only)

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Japan is technologically capable of establishing a non-nuclear-based energy policy and could become a pioneer in sources of energy other than nuclear power.

The former chancellor, who played a leading role in passing legislation to phase out nuclear power in Germany in 2002, made the comments in an interview with the Mainichi as Japan marked six months since the onset of the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

"Japan is in a position where it is technologically capable of forming different energy policies," Schroeder said, adding that when Germany decided to eliminate nuclear power, "there was tremendous resistance from the power industry, which had believed that nuclear power was the essence of their business model, but debate was continued with industry executives until they understood." In making the comment, Schroeder stressed the importance of political leadership
in forming new policy.

In Europe, countries can import electricity from their neighbors if they run short, but Japan, being an island nation, is unable to rely on other nations. However, Schroeder said that by working to conserve energy, expanding forms of renewable energy such as solar and wind power, and temporarily using energy such as natural gas, which contributes less to global warming, "Japan could become a pioneer in energy other than nuclear power."

Since the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, most developed countries, as well as emerging and developing countries concerned about shortages of electricity, have continued to rely on nuclear power, on condition that safety is enhanced.

Commenting on events that could threaten the safety of nuclear power plants, Schroeder said, "Even risks of less realistic dangers like terrorism or airplane accidents must not be ruled out if there is even a slim possibility of them happening."

"Germany's safety philosophy is more solid than that of Japan," Schroeder added.

Pointing to Japan's failure to predict the tsunami that caused the nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture, he said, "The massive tsunami could probably have been envisaged, and the fact that it was not envisaged when it should have been is problematic," he said.

In 1998, Schroeder's Social Democratic Party of Germany formed a coalition with the German Green Party. In 2002, the coalition passed legislation to eliminate nuclear power by around

The administration of Angela Merkel had put this policy on hold, but after the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, quickly returned to the line of eliminating nuclear power. The administration decided to cease operation of all 17 nuclear power plants in Germany by 2022, a move approved by the German parliament.

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Japan Puts Ex-Spokesman in Charge of Nuclear Crisis
Yoko Kubota
(for personal use only)

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda gave a former government spokesman the cabinet post responsible for the Fukushima nuclear crisis on Monday, acting to limit the damage to his new cabinet after the previous minister quit over gaffes.

Yukio Edano was named trade minister, a job that oversees energy policy, making it a key role in a country still coping with the affects of meltdowns at the Fukushima power plant. The plant was damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, causing the world's worst nuclear accident for 25 years.

Previous trade minister Yoshio Hachiro quit on Saturday after just eight days in his job, following reports that he joked with reporters about radiation from the Fukushima plant during a trip to the affected area.

At his inaugural news conference as trade minister, Edano said Japan should strive to create a society that does not depend on nuclear power, although he stopped short of calling for an eventual closure of all nuclear power plants.

"What we have to do is to create a society that can do without nuclear power, a situation where industry can exist without nuclear power," Edano said. "Then, we can discuss what we are going to do with nuclear plants."

Edano served as the public face of the government during the disaster, giving frequent televised briefings on the nuclear plant's status. A former chief cabinet secretary under previous premier Naoto Kan, he is considered to have a good understanding of nuclear issues.

"Public support for Noda's cabinet is unlikely to rise with Edano taking over, but the amount of damage has likely been minimized," said Tetsuro Kato, a political science professor at Waseda University, adding Edano was a safe choice for Noda.

Noda, who took over as Japan's sixth premier in five years at the start of this month, needed to act quickly because the blunders gave the opposition that controls the parliament's upper house ammunition to attack the new cabinet.

The 54-year-old former finance minister, who has emphasized the importance of uniting the fractious ruling party, is set to address parliament in a policy speech on Tuesday, which will be followed by questions from opposition leaders.

Support for Noda remained robust despite the abrupt departure of Hachiro, with 60 percent of those polled in favor of his government, a voter survey conducted for three days through Sunday by public broadcaster NHK showed.

That was largely in line with the results of similar newspaper polls a week ago, in a sign the Japanese public was willing to give the new leader the benefit of the doubt despite bitter disappointment with his predecessor Kan.

Kan's ratings plunged from similar highs to less than 20 percent at the end of his 15-month tenure after he drew fire for his cabinet's handling of the March disaster and the resulting nuclear crisis.

Noda must end the radiation crisis while tackling many challenges, including rebuilding after the March disaster and curbing huge public debt, and will need opposition cooperation to achieve that.

One of the near-term tests will come next month when the cabinet is expected to prepare and submit to parliament an extra budget of about 10 trillion yen ($128.6 billion) needed to start full-fledged reconstruction in the disasteruck areas.

The public will be keen to see progress in bringing damaged nuclear reactors at the Fukushima plant to a safe shutdown by January, the process which will now be overseen by Edano.
Edano, 47, has said that Japan will need to review its nuclear power policy from scratch after
the Fukushima accident tattered public trust in atomic energy.

"Mr. Edano has been deeply involved not only in reconstruction issues after the March 11 disaster but also in the issue of Fukushima, so that record must have been valued," Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a news conference.

Edano will be charged with overseeing power utilities' stress tests to see how well prepared their nuclear reactors are to withstand the impact of extreme events. Japan's nuclear safety watchdog will be under the trade ministry until April.

Currently, only 11 out of 54 nuclear reactors are operating after others have been unable to restart following maintenance checks due to heightened public worries.

Edano said reactors that have been proven safe ought to be restarted only after enough efforts are made to win understanding of local residents, but that it would be difficult to build new nuclear reactors in Japan.

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D.  Iran

Iran Identifies 34 Sites for N-Plants
Press TV
(for personal use only)

Deputy Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Mohammad Ahmadian says Iran has identified 34 potential sites for building new nuclear power plants.

Ahmadian said that in order to identify appropriate locations, the country has been divided to six zones, adding that studies on the sites will be completed by the end of December, IRNA reported.

He said that the south coast of the country was the major priority for the sites as there was easy access to water to cool down reactors.

He said that Iran could generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity by building more nuclear power plants.

The official added that Iranian scientists possessed expertise to build new nuclear plants but reiterated that Iran was willing to cooperate with foreign scientists to receive updated new technology.

He said that the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified the safety of the Bushehr plant, Iran's first nuclear plant, and assured Iran's neighbors that the plant would pose no threat to the region.

Iran officially launched the Bushehr plant on Monday.

The plant was connected to the national power grid earlier this month.

It will initially generate electricity at 40 percent of its capacity and will reach its full capacity of one-thousand megawatts in about two or three months.

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Iran Nuke Chief to Attend IAEA Meeting
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Iran's nuclear power chief says he will attend an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in Vienna after offering to reduce tensions with the West.

Fereidoon Abbasi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran since February, announced Sunday he would personally lead the Iranian delegation at the IAEA's 59th General Conference, scheduled to begin Sept. 19 in the Austrian capital.

The announcement came a week after Abbasi unveiled a counterproposal to address the series of sanctions slapped on Tehran by the United Nations' atomic energy watchdog, which accuses Iran of not complying with calls for transparency over its nuclear program.

The European Union, the United States and other Western powers accuse Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapon, which Tehran maintains its uranium enrichment program is solely for civilian applications.

Abbasi last week offered to allow IAEA inspectors "full supervision" of the country's nuclear activities for the next five years but on the condition that the mounting sanctions against Iran are lifted, The New York Times reported.

"We proposed that the agency keep Iran's nuclear program and activities under full supervision for five years, provided that sanctions against Iran are lifted," he told the semi-official Iranian Student News Agency.

The Iranian counteroffer -- its first in two years -- came after an IAEA report this month indicated that new information has made inspectors "increasingly concerned" that Iran is continuing to secretly develop a nuclear weapon that can be mounted atop a missile, which Abbasi dismissed as "fabricated and baseless."

The offer was met with skepticism from EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, who said Tehran needs to commit to IAEA demands to suspend its nuclear program before any sanctions are lifted.

Abbasi was well-known to U.S., European and Israeli intelligence agencies before being appointed as the country's nuclear energy chief, the Times reported. Coming from Shahid Beheshti University, he is believed to be working closely on research into how to create nuclear weapons.

Abbasi, who narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in November, was designated by the United Nations as a scientist involved in Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activities and thus has been subject travel limitations, the newspaper said.

An aide to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Sunday called on the IAEA to "act independently" in its dealings with Iran -- a reference to the Tehran's claims it is doing the bidding of a nuclear-armed Israel.

Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi was quoted by IRNA as saying, "IAEA reports on Iran's nuclear dossier should be prepared independently and in an atmosphere free from political pressures," adding they "should be realistic and factual."

Last week's meeting of the U.N. Security Council's Iran sanctions committee brought fresh warnings from the United States and EU member nations that Tehran remains under intense scrutiny.

"The eyes of the international community are currently diverted elsewhere, focusing on Syria, Libya -- and Iran may believe that it can profit from this situation," French Charge d'Affaires Martin Briens told reporters. "It has increased the number of centrifuges and provocative statements but we are not misled by this."

"Iran refuses to address outstanding issues related to its nuclear program," added U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. "The director general reports that Iran is continuing enrichment and heavy water-related activities in defiance of both this council and the IAEA board of governors.

"Iran still refuses to respond substantively to information regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program."

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E.  Nuclear Energy

Europeans Reignite Fusion Energy Project
Stuart Nathan
Technology Review
(for personal use only)

A team of researchers has restarted the world's largest fusion experiment— the Joint European Torus (JET) reactor, near Oxford, U.K. The move is a step forward in the quest for practical nuclear fusion.

The project was put on hold while a new lining was installed. This lining mimics the planned configuration of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), a full-scale experimental fusion reactor now under construction in southern France. As a consequence, the new undertaking at JET is being called the ITER-Like Wall Project.

The JET team says the lining, made of tiles of the light metal beryllium, should be better able to withstand the extreme conditions needed for a self-sustaining fusion reaction than the carbon-fiber composite tiles used before. The lining will also allow for laser-driven fusion experiments, similar to those underway at the National Ignition Facility in California.

JET is a tokamak—a device for carrying out magnetic confinement fusion. Its doughnut-shaped reactor contains plasma made from hydrogen that's squeezed by powerful magnetic fields. Eventually, magnetic pressure and heat force the hydrogen nuclei to fuse into helium, releasing a burst of energy and freeing high-energy neutrons.

JET is the only tokamak in the world equipped to use tritium, the radioactive form of hydrogen containing two neutrons in its nucleus, as well as the single-neutron form, deuterium. Forcing these two forms of hydrogen to fuse produces large yields of energy. The ITER tokamak will also use this form of fusion once it's complete.

Guy Matthews, director of the ITER-Like Wall Project, explains that ITER would not be able to operate with a carbon lining. "Electrons in the material tend to dilute the plasma—each one will displace a hydrogen nucleus," he says. "This is why carbon was chosen; it has a low atomic number, and carbon fiber can withstand high temperatures."

The problem comes with introducing tritium to the plasma. "If you have it in the wall, it will tend to form hydrocarbon compounds with the hydrogen in the reactor, and when the form of hydrogen is tritium, the hydrocarbons will be radioactive," says Matthews. "That's a radiological issue, a safety issue, and an economic issue, because there isn't much tritium available, and you don't want it trapped."

For JET, this isn't an overwhelming problem; the doughnut-shaped "torus" is relatively small—about two meters across—and only runs fusion pulses for a few tens of seconds. But ITER's torus will be almost 10 times that size and run 10-minute pulses; and a commercial fusion reactor would have to run continuously.

The beryllium tiles used to refit JET are machined into precise shapes with a deep grid of cuts designed to prevent stresses developing as the tiles heat and cool during the reactor's operation.

The reactor is lined with 5,000 of these tiles, which cover every part of the interior apart from a trench running around the base of the torus. Known as the diverter, this is where plasma particles are slowed down to expend their energy. At this stage the plasma is in direct contact with the lining, which is lined with tungsten tiles, as the heavier metal is less likely to be displaced from the surface by light helium and hydrogen nuclei, Matthews says.

The refit of JET took around 15 months. All of the tiles from the former lining had to be stripped out and replaced with beryllium or tungsten. Because the reactor shell itself has been rendered radioactive by neutron bombardment, the bulk of the work had to be carried out by remote operation.

The work is also likely to have implications for laser-driven fusion research, according to Chris Matthews, director of the High Power Laser Energy Research (HiPER) project, a European attempt to devise a power station-like fusion reactor running on the same principle as the National Ignition Facility.

"The first wall is an area where we and magnetic fusion have a crossover of interest," he says. "The environment is rather different, because ITER has a constant plasma loading, whereas we have to deal with a pulsed load, but we're hoping to benefit from the research that's going into the ITER-like wall."

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Tamil Nadu Nuclear Plant Row Escalates
Dakshina Muraleedharan
IBN Live
(for personal use only)

The Koodankulam nuclear plant in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu was advertised as the answer to crippling power shortages. But villagers from three districts in the State, fearing a nuclear meltdown, are on an indefinite strike with about a 100 on a hunger strike since Monday.

Their one demand - completely shut down the nuclear plant. The protest comes at a time when two of the 1000 megawatt VVER-type reactors are in the final stages of completion.

One of the villagers Sahayiga said, "We don't want the electricity produced from this plant. We want our fertile land. We will not budge from here."

Another villager Joseph said, "After what happened in Fukushima accident all of us know how dangerous this is. We don't want to die like that. People from three districts have assembled here for the past three days, protesting. But the collector has not even come here once.

Activists say they been wary of the plant ever since its inception.

Anti-nuclear activist S Udayakumar said, "People saw the disaster at Fukushima in their own TV sets and understood that this is not a hypothetical situation, something like this happens we will lose everything. So many other industrialised countries are phasing out nuclear projects."

There is no police presence here at the protest site but they are stationed a few kms away and are not willing to intervene as long as this is a peaceful protest. While the authorities at the Koodankulam nuclear plant have refused to react saying this is a law and order situation and it is upto the state government to handle it.

The protests - which have raised uneasy questions over nuclear safety - have put the government in a tight spot.

Former Governor of India at International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) TP Sreenivasan said, "Koodankulam is very significant for us as this is the first imported nuclear reactor going to be functional. whatever may be the consequences we have to proceed. It is the question of reassuring people, reducing their fears."

This protest is slowly turning out to be a mass movement here at Koodankulam and the government cannot turn a blind eye to it for very long. On the one hand is the nuclear plant in which hundreds of crores of rupees have already been invested and on the other are the growing safety concerns of these villagers.

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UAE Energy Minister: We Won't Change Our Nuclear Energy Plans
Adrian Filut
Globes Online
(for personal use only)

"Our strategy for nuclear power will not change because of the Fukushima incident. There will be much greater emphasis on nuclear safety but, in the long run, it will not derail our plans." United Arab Emirates Minister of Energy Mohamed Bin Dhaen Al Hamli told the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Dalian, China, today.

"We have a lot of oil and gas, but we must renew and diversify, including into nuclear energy," he added. "We are fortunate that we are in the inception stage and can incorporate the latest safety features. Just because of Fukushima, we cannot condemn an entire industry."

Asked whether Arab Spring would derail nuclear energy plans, Al Hamli said, "People have to cool their homes and they need energy. It's important to remember that the Middle East is always stormy, but business continues as usual."

"Solving the problems that the Fukushima nuclear power disaster left behind is Japan's priority," Mitsubishi Corporation chairman Yorihiko Kojima. He said that the use of nuclear energy would continue because, "while renewable energy is important, it will take a long time and a lot of resources. We must solve the problems at Fukushima and establish new safety and security standards. Japan's industry relies on nuclear energy and ending its use would be problematic and could send manufacturing abroad."

Russian mining and energy company EN+ Group CEO Artem Volynets said that it would be simply impossible for Russia to walk away from nuclear power. "We won't see a halt in the development of nuclear energy, but development might slow down a bit."

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F.  Links of Interest

On Iran's Nuclear Program, Science Contradicts Rhetoric
Ali Vaez and Charles Ferguson
The Atlantic
(for personal use only)

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Betting Big on Nuclear Energy
Ken Silverstein
(for personal use only)

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Nuclear Plan Conflicts with New Budget Realities
Nickolas Roth, Hans M. Kristensen and Stephen Young
FAS Strategic Security Blog
(for personal use only)

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Nuclear Nonproliferation: U.S. Agencies Have Limited Ability to Account for, Monitor, and Evaluate the Security of U.S. Nuclear Material Overseas
U.S. Government Accountability Office
(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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