The German government is supporting the construction of a nuclear power station in Brazil – in a mountainous coastal region prone to landslides using plans dating back to 1975, it has emerged.
Despite the fact that Germany is set to stop generating electricity with nuclear power stations itself by 2022, the government has extended a €1.3- billion export credit guarantee, known as Hermes cover, according to a report in Wednesday’s Financial Times Deutschland.
The paper reported that the previous guarantee had expired in July, but will be extended.
“The government respects the decision of the Brazilian government for an extension of nuclear power,” it quoted a government source saying.
The country is, “politically and economically an important partner,” the insider added.
The Angra 3 is planned for an Atlantic coast location where there is a risk of landslides.
Experts also consider the plans, which date back to 1975, as too old, and have criticized the Brazilian authorities as too lax with the nuclear industry.
Brazilians and international groups such as Greenpeace have been protesting against the plans for years.
It will be built by the French firm Areva, which, the FTD points out, employs more than 5,000 people in Germany.
A bad-tempered parliamentary debate is expected on Wednesday as politicians discuss the matter in the parliamentary budgetary committee. The spectre of Japan’s Fukushima disaster early this year – which prompted Germany’s nuclear switch-off - is likely to be repeatedly invoked.
“It would be schizophrenic to turn off the nuclear power stations here but at the same time to support the construction of new ones abroad,” said Sven-Christian Kindler, budgetary expert for the Greens.
The FTD said that the government was attaching a number of conditions to the extension of its credit guarantee, leaving itself get-out clauses before the official closing of the contracts at the start of next year.
By then, Areva will have to commission an independent expert report, which will examine whether the Angra 3 plant would be well enough protected from earthquakes, landslides and floods, whether the electricity supply would be secure in emergencies, and whether there are good enough evacuation plans for the region.
“The government is reserving the right to check the report. A final confirmation of the credit guarantee will only be forthcoming if the results are satisfactory,” the government source told the paper.
There will also be regular checks of whether the Brazilian nuclear authority adheres to certain standards, while the Brazilian government will also have to give a guarantee to reduce the German financial risk.
Available at: http://www.thelocal.de/national/20110921-37721.html
2. Japan, South Korea Share Nuclear Expertise with ASEAN
The Mainichi Daily News
(for personal use only)
Japan and South Korea are sharing their expertise in nuclear technology with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations amid strong interest from some ASEAN members to adopt nuclear as an energy source, a statement said Wednesday.
The message followed meetings Tuesday of ASEAN energy ministers and other ministers and officials from major countries outside the region in Brunei.
Senior ASEAN officials cited Japan and South Korea as the most active in approaching ASEAN members with their nuclear expertise.
The statement noted, "The ministers also welcomed (South) Korea's continued contribution to capacity building in civilian nuclear energy, and Japan's establishment of the Integrated Support Center for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Security."
Peter Chin, Malaysian Minister of energy, green technology and water, said at a press conference Tuesday, "We are also looking at nuclear as an option, just in case in the future we find that we don't have enough, then we have to consider using nuclear very prominently, otherwise we will be short of fuel."
S. Iswaran, Singapore's second minister for trade and industry, added, "Basically we take a medium to long term view of the energy needs within ASEAN. Most countries would at this stage say that nuclear energy is an option that should not be dismissed out of hand. It is something that we should study carefully and look at what the major possibilities are."
An ASEAN official who requested anonymity told Kyodo News he thinks both Japan and South Korea are equally strong in nuclear technology, but Japan seems to have slightly fallen behind South Korea after the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
One problem is the nuclear technology used in most Japanese nuclear power plants is the same as that used in the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant while South Korea is mostly using another type of technology, he said.
In addition, South Korea has already made greater headway in collaborating on nuclear capacity building with ASEAN and already has a program for nuclear energy human resources development for ASEAN countries.
ASEAN is eager to boost cooperation with its dialogue partners, which include China, to gain their expertise in diversifying energy sources to ensure energy security amid volatile and uncertain energy markets and the rising demand for energy in the economically dynamic region.
Already several ASEAN countries have shown interest in nuclear power as a long term option. Aside from Vietnam, which is developing a nuclear power plant with Russian technology, other ASEAN countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia have expressed interest and Singapore is doing a feasibility study on adopting nuclear power.
According to ASEAN official sources, ASEAN has agreed to focus on four priority areas for nuclear energy cooperation over the next two years -- capacity building, promoting public acceptance of nuclear power as an alternative energy option, sharing best practices and engaging with dialogue partners.
Additionally, ASEAN aims to seek cooperation from the United States, European Union and Russia in capacity building for nuclear power.
The United States, which joined the East Asia Summit energy ministers meeting for the first time after being admitted to EAS last year, is also expected to play a key role in ASEAN's moves toward nuclear power generation.
Available at: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/business/news/20110921p2g00m0bu068000c.html
Energy leaders from Russia and America have made a "commitment to supporting the safe and secure expansion of civil nuclear energy" on the sidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency's General Conference.
Officials from the US Department of Energy and Russia's Rosatom signed what the US side called a "joint statement on strategic direction of US-Russia nuclear cooperation." US energy secretary Stephen Chu said it was a milestone for the two nuclear energy pioneers. They were long separated by their opposition during the Cold War, but now share a leading role in nuclear security and disarmament.
Chu said in his address to the conference that nuclear energy's role grows more valuable as we confront a changing climate, increasing energy demand and a struggling economy. "At the same time, Fukushima reminds us that nuclear safety and security require continued vigilance." He noted the agreements made by Russia and the USA to reduce their weapons stockpiles and the importance of the widest possible sign-up to the framework of international conventions supporting the safe use of nuclear energy.
Russian nuclear energy chief Sergei Kiriyenko focused comments on his country's efforts to help new nations enjoy the benefits of nuclear energy. Their entrance to the field raises "questions of nuclear safety, infrastructure, creation of licensing and safety oversight and development of a clear legal framework in accordance with the requirements and recommendations of the IAEA," he said.
Kiriyenko noted Russia's cooperation towards nuclear build with Bangladesh, Belarus, Nigeria and Vietnam. "In the last year," he said, "we have proposed a new model of cooperation.. based on the principle of 'build-speak-operate'." The 'speak' component would refer to the lending of specific Russian expertise in the areas of law and regulation. This would come in addition to extensive and expanding lines of support from the IAEA. He said that "experience in this model confirms that this scheme can provide a higher level of safety and operational success."
The nuclear project in Turkey was said to be the first example of this mode of cooperation: Russia will build, own and operate a four-unit power plant at Akkuyu, supplying the state utility with electricity at a fixed price for at least 15 years. Rosatom will initially own 100% of the project and it intends to retain at least 51% in the long term.
New approaches to the fuel cycle are on the US agenda and Chu's speech highlighted the US stance, which has changed markedly since President George Bush launched the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership in 2005. Chu said America will "encourage commercial nuclear companies to join together, under appropriate laws and regulations, to provide secure, reliable access to both front and back-end fuel services to any country with nuclear reactors."
This kind of open-market assurance would lessen the perceived need for a country to develop its own suite of nuclear fuel facilities as Iran has done. Chu said Iran has a choice: "it can comply with its obligations and restore international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear activities, or it can face deepening isolation and international censure." He praised the IAEA board for referring the status of nuclear programs in Iran, Syria and North Korea to the UN Security Council.
Chu's statement contained a message from President Barack Obama: "The tragic events at Fukushima make clear that nuclear energy, which holds great promise for global development and as a carbon-free source of power, also brings significant challenges to our collective safety and security... We must aim for a future in which peaceful nuclear energy is not only safe, but also accessible by all nations that abide by their obligations."
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP_USA_and_Russia_commit_to_expand_nuclear_power_2109111.html
4. WikiLeaks Sheds Light on US-Jordan Nuclear Rift
The Jordan Times
(for personal use only)
Diplomatic cables recently released by WikiLeaks shed new light on a growing rift between Amman and Washington over Jordan’s nuclear programme.
The leaked cables, posted by the US embassy in Amman in 2009, summarise meetings between embassy officials and Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Khaled Toukan, then Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) chairman, and detail negotiations over a US-Jordan nuclear cooperation pact which have dragged on since early 2008.
Differences between the two sides emerged over the terms of the agreement, which would pave the way for the sale and transfer of nuclear technology and expertise between the US and Jordan, according to the cables.
After outlining an initial cooperation agreement in early 2008, Washington insisted that Jordan sign a deal similar to a pact reached between the US and the UAE in June 2008, which called for extensive monitoring and under which Abu Dhabi waived its right to uranium enrichment. In the cables, part of a cache of diplomatic communiqués released by the whistle-blower website late last month, embassy officials noted that Toukan was “annoyed” over
Washington’s insistence on the revised terms and maintained that an agreement similar to the UAE deal would “kill commercial opportunities” for Jordan for the next 30 years.
Toukan argued that due to the transparency and international support for the Kingdom’s nuclear programme, Jordan did not require the additional safeguards included in the revised agreement, accusing US officials of attempting to apply double standards to Arab states, according to the cables.
The communiqués outline JAEC officials’ preference to return to an initial, standard cooperation agreement outlined in February 2008, which did not require Jordan to forego its right to uranium enrichment.
“I have always maintained that Jordan should retain its sovereign rights under the NPT, and this is what the cables show,” Toukan told The Jordan Times in a recent phone interview.
The cables depict US and Jordanian officials at an impasse - with the JAEC expecting Washington to return to the original agreement and the State Department trying to convince officials in Amman of the “political importance” of the revised terms, particularly to the US Congress.
Congressional approval is viewed as critical to the passage of any nuclear cooperation agreement, with US lawmakers reserving a 90-day period to raise objections to a pending deal. Embassy staff concluded that the JAEC’s position reflected the “personal views” of Toukan rather than official policy, the documents reveal, indicating that US officials planned to apply pressure at higher levels for the Kingdom to accept a UAE-style agreement.
The leaked documents also reveal a fear among US diplomats that Jordan may lobby other emerging Arab nuclear states - namely Egypt and Saudi Arabia - to reject the UAE standards.
Despite the differences over a nuclear deal, the cables note Amman’s willingness for greater cooperation in non-proliferation efforts, with Toukan and other officials reiterating Jordan’s support for strengthening the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the establishment of a regional fuel bank and the creation of a Middle East nuclear weapons free zone.
On several earlier occasions, officials at the US embassy declined to comment on the leaked cables.
JAEC officials have indicated that although “revealing”, the leaked cables will have little impact on the stalled talks.
The lack of a nuclear cooperation agreement has barred US firms from competing in the technology selection for the Kingdom’s first nuclear reactor - with the JAEC currently vetting offers from Russian, Canadian and Japanese-French vendors.
Although Jordan’s nuclear plans do not entail uranium enrichment, officials in Amman have insisted on retaining the strategic option of exploiting the Kingdom’s reserves, currently estimated at over 100,000 tonnes, to fuel the programme in the future.
Officials at the State Department’s nuclear energy, safety and security office, who helped draft the original proposed nuclear cooperation agreement, previously told The Jordan Times that prior to being brought to a standstill earlier this year, negotiations between Amman and Washington had been proceeding “positively”.
Jordan’s nuclear programme calls for the establishment of a 1,000-megawatt reactor near Mafraq, some 40 kilometres northeast of the capital, by the end of the decade. Jordan has singled out atomic energy as the key to weaning the country off energy imports, which cost one-fifth of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product in 2010.
Available at: http://www.jordantimes.com/index.php?news=41528
Turkey’s energy minister said Monday Ankara would consider a proposal from the United States to build a nuclear power plant in the country’s north.
“If a proposal comes from the U.S, we could evaluate it but so far, no concrete proposal has been made to us,” Minister Taner Yıldız told reporters on Monday.
Turkey reached an agreement with Russia in May 2010 to build Turkey’s first nuclear plant in Akkuyu in Mersin province, in the south.
In December, Turkey and Japan also signed a memorandum on civil nuclear cooperation, a step towards a possible $20-billion deal for Japanese companies to build a nuclear plant at Sinop, on Turkey’s Black Sea coast.
Yıldız said Turkey wanted to hear the same political will from Japan after the latter’s prime minister changed.
“I can say we are negotiating with different countries and different companies in order to generate alternative solutions in case Japan is unable to carry on with us,” Yıldız said earlier.
Available at: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=turkey-awaits-nuclear-plant-proposal-from-us-2011-09-20
While touring the grounds of Duke Energy’s power facilities that included a nuclear energy plant, this reporter was forewarned that “our every move is being monitored.” Security has always been tight. But since the terroristic acts of 2001, they have become much stronger.
Since 9-11, the nuclear energy sector says that it has spent $2 billion to beef up its security to protect against everything from airliners deliberately flying into facilities to cyber attacks to armed physical assaults. While it cannot become complacent, the industry says that the efforts are ongoing and that no plant has suffered at the hands of the enemy.
“We’ve put in security to thwart any act,” says Larry Weber, chief nuclear officer for American Electric Power’s Cook Nuclear Plant in Bridgman, Mich., at a conference hosted by the Indiana Energy Association. Its top-secret measures are evaluated by the Nuclear Regulatory Regulatory Commission and its peers, as well as by the company itself that undergoes a review each year.
Among the steps taken by the plant are sophisticated detection systems that include night-time monitoring as well as newly-trained armed security forces. Meantime, the nuclear plant that comprises 6 percent of AEP’s generation, instills a corporate culture that encourages workers to raise any concerns and know that, if justified, corrective actions will be taken.
While critics acknowledge that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has bolstered the protective measures that plant operators must take, they also say that progress is too slow.
Laws enacted in 2005 require those regulators to conduct security measures every three years that examine “force-on-force” exercises, which would then trigger a shut-down of a plant.
Nuclear facilities are definitely on the minds of would-be terrorists. A memo released by the commission says that Al Qaeda has indicated that it has discussed ways to crash a plane into a nuclear power plant. At the same time, the FBI said that it uncovered information contained on a computer owned by an individual with close links to the terrorist's organization implying that nuclear units would make good targets.
Perhaps the greatest danger to nuclear plants could come from the air, or possibly by missile.
At risk are the nuclear reactors and radioactive fuel deposits as well as spent fuel that is in transport, all items that regulators are charged with securing. More than half of the nation's 104 nuclear reactors are located near population centers, including two near Washington, D.C., and two close to New York City.
The purpose of a containment building is to protect the reactor core and to prevent the release of radioactive materials. Such containment walls are made up of concrete and steel. The concern raised is that a hijacked airplane could hit such a target and allow for the radiation’s escape.
That’s something that the Electric Power Research Institute says would not work as the studies show that the barriers protecting both the core and the spent fuel rods could withstand such an attack. Other experts, such as the National Academy of Sciences, agree that those plants are difficult to penetrate but not impossible.
“For the nuclear industry, our daily commitment is to remain vigilant toward security,” writes Marvin Fertel, chief executive of the Nuclear Energy Institute in the Daily Caller. “The industry, working with federal regulators and the intelligence community, receives real-time threat assessments and remains steadfast regarding security and safety.”
Terrorism is a persistent threat. So, too, are natural disasters. Just recently, nuclear plants located in the eastern United States were tested by both an earthquake and hurricane. They performed as expected and in some cases, shutting down before waiting to start back up. How does this compare with what occurred in Japan?
During the Japanese nuclear crisis in March, the back up power failed, allowing the core to melt down and to release radiation. Additionally, investigators are discovering that the Japanese suffered earthquakes in the same region that were similar in size to the one in Fukushima, and did not make the necessary modifications.
In this country, AEP’s Weber says that the redundancies set up to ensure that the fuel rods remain cooled are rigorously tested -- and that such a scenario cannot happen here. He also says that nuclear operators are looking at 500-year histories so that the plants are either modified or built to withstand the meanest natural disasters.
“I think you will see nuclear construction in the United States but there may be delay,” says Weber.
Nuclear power plants are in the eye of the storm -- literally, having been hit by tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes. Now the attention is broadening to include man-made attacks. In both cases, the defenses are up and the U.S. nuclear industry says that it is well-prepared.
Available at: http://www.energybiz.com/article/11/09/attackers-eye-nuclear-plants
2. Vietnam Wants Top Security for Planned Nuclear Power Plant
Vietnam Business News
(for personal use only)
Vietnam has asked Russian experts to help in increasing security levels at the country’s first planned nuclear power plant in the central coastal province of Ninh Thuan.
Le Dinh Tien, deputy minister of Science and Technology, said Vietnam has asked experts from its Russian partner Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation to raise the standards of safety at the nuclear power plant.
Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai is of the view that Vietnam is still at an early stage in developing the plant and the country is willing to accept the best technologies of international standards to raise the security levels at the plant.
The deputy PM says that work on the power plant will only be launched when all the security elements necessary have been put into place.
Experts have warned that there is a possibility of a tsunami from a magnitude 7 earthquake in that region that could cause damage to the power plant.
Officials estimate that the strongest earthquake in the area could be of magnitude 7.0; hence safety elements must be prepared for magnitude 8.0 or even 9.0 earthquakes.
S.Boyarkin, deputy general director of Rosatom, has promised to make Vietnam’s nuclear power plant the safest in the world.
Boyarkin said that the design for third generation nuclear power plants in Russia is the only design in the world at present that has a system that prevents melting inside a nuclear reactor from flowing out, no matter what the incident.
Nikolay Kutin, director of Russia’s Federal Service for Environment, Technology and Nuclear Oversight, also known as Rostekhnadzor, said the new technology is very clean and dismisses nothing.
Russia has offered technology for transport, preservation and treatment of nuclear power waste.
Kutin said that his department always follows standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency in treating nuclear power waste.
He said his unit will also exchange experiences with Vietnam’s nuclear safety agencies during the process of transferring technology to Vietnam’s new plant.
Dr. Ngo Dang Nhan, head of the Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety, said there’re many factors to cover as regards nuclear power safety, but the primary one is technology.
Many plants in Japan were built with first and second generation technologies, while Vietnam’s plant will be built with the latest third generation technology – and it will be much safer, Nhan said.
The Ministry of Science and Technology has asked the Institute of Geological Sciences and the Institute of Geophysics to conduct a research for assessing earthquake activities in the area of the future power plant.
The research will offer more suggestions for safety standards for Vietnam’s first power plant, officials said.
All necessary geological information is expected to be available by early 2013 and the first power plant can be launched in Ninh Thuan by 2014.
Local officials have expressed concern over security of the future power plant ever since the Tohoku earthquake that hit Japan in March this year.
The 9.0 magnitude under-seaquake caused a tsunami that led to a severe meltdown in three reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant complex.
Thousands of people had to be evacuated as a result and the accident triggered a fear in many Asian countries including Vietnam.
Available at: http://vietnambusiness.asia/vietnam-wants-top-security-for-planned-nuclear-power-plant/
3. IAEA to Organize Nuclear Fast-Response Team: French Minister
Ann MacLachlan and Anna Crowley
(for personal use only)
International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano has accepted a French proposal to convene by year's end an international meeting designed to establish an rapid-response team for nuclear emergencies and an system to train nuclear plant operators in emergency management, French industry and energy minister Eric Besson said Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters in Vienna Monday, where he led the French delegation to the 55th IAEA General Conference, Besson said he met with Amano and ministers from other nations interested in nuclear power, all of whom supported the initiative.
"Yukiya Amano has accepted the minister's request to ... create an international rapid-response force and an international center for training in crisis management," Besson's office said in a Tuesday statement.
Since the March 11 Fukushima accident, several countries have proposed a rapid-response force.
Besson referred to the proposed intervention team as a "super fire squad" that acts wherever an accident occurs. It could be organized on a regional basis, he said. Details such as financing and coordination would have to be worked out at the IAEA meeting, he said.
The first meeting will take place by the end of the year, according to the French energy ministry.
Besson also said France hopes all vendor countries would commit to sell only reactors with "third-generation" safety features that preclude offsite radioactive releases and to limit exports to countries that "fully satisfy" IAEA criteria. But he said he understood that some countries are not able to accept legally binding safety measures for the IAEA's post- Fukushima action plan.
The IAEA board of governors last week approved a post-Fukushima action plan with voluntary reactor safety peer review. Amano in June had proposed that these be mandatory.
Amano's original goal of reviewing the safety of 10% of the world's nuclear power plants within three years also was dropped from the final document.
The 12-point plan, which is aimed at preventing recurrence of a Fukushima-like accident, called for national self-assessments of the safety of the world's 440 nuclear power reactors and an increase in voluntary international peer reviews, plus a number of other measures designed to avert severe accidents and improve emergency preparedness and response.
The plan is expected to be approved by the general conference this week.
France, which wanted the action plan to be tougher, Monday proposed as one of four priority actions that stress tests on all existing reactors begin by mid-2012, with peer reviews by foreign experts to be carried out by then, according to Besson's office.
The energy minister said France is pushing for systematic publication of the review results under IAEA supervision and has suggested that the agency present a complete report during the next general conference scheduled for August 2012.
European nuclear safety officials have said reviews by independent international experts with the results made public is the way to make sure there are no lingering questions about the safety of nuclear plants anywhere in the world. They have said such transparency is essential to public acceptance of nuclear power, especially after Fukushima.
Available at: http://www.platts.com/RSSFeedDetailedNews/RSSFeed/ElectricPower/8365122
4. Nigeria: Country Wants AU to Establish Commission on Nuclear Energy
(for personal use only)
Minister of Science and Technology Professor Ita Okon Bassey Ewa has called on the African Union to establish African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) to ensure nuclear security in the continent.
The minister, who spoke in Kaduna at the weekend during the 2010/2011 convocation ceremony of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), said "Nuclear security has become a top international security priority over the past two decades because issues surrounding the nuclear fuel cycle are reality of nuclear security".
The minister, according to a statement by spokesman of the ministry Stephen Nelson, also stressed the need to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to enable it establish a comprehensive international nuclear security practices for the protection of nuclear materials.
According to him, "Nigeria's commitment to the peaceful uses of nuclear technology dated back to 1968 when it became the second country to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and it followed that up with a vote in 1995 for the indefinite extension of the NPT".
Available at: http://allafrica.com/stories/201109201122.html
5. U.S. Ill-Equipped to Deal With Japan-like Nuclear Meltdown
(for personal use only)
There’s plenty of disagreement over whether U.S. nuclear power plants are ready to face disasters and run responsibly. The industry says they are, while critics maintain some plants are just like the ones in Japan that melted down and they are poorly monitored to boot.
But whatever the situation of any single U.S. reactor, the disaster in Fukushima has laid bare one truth on which experts and officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission agree: A disaster here would result in losses requiring the government to make payouts of epic proportions.
That’s because Fukushima will cost anywhere from $74 billion to $260 billion, according to Japanese experts, while the U.S. nuclear insurance fund, established by a 1957 law called the Price-Anderson Act, only has around $12.6 billion in reserve.
"If you have an accident or something like Fukushima, then Price-Anderson can’t handle those kinds of losses," said Wharton School professor Howard Kunreuther, who specializes in public policy.
Kunreuther co-wrote a paper on potential catastrophic nuclear plant costs to the U.S. government for a National Bureau of Economic Research conference in 2007.
"The Japan power plant failure is far worse than almost anything we’ve ever had," Kunreuther said last month. "Maybe Chernobyl, from the point of view of people affected, but certainly not in the case of economic damage."
Costs from the Japanese nuclear accident could be more than a quarter of a trillion dollars, the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported earlier this summer. That estimate was prepared for the government by a Japanese research institute, and it included decommissioning costs, purchases of land within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant and compensation to residents who are forced to move.
The result in Japan is the government has moved to pay a large part of damages, with hopes of being repaid by utilities in years to come.
Could a similar situation unfold on this side of the Pacific?
Even though U.S. plants aren’t threatened by tsunamis like Japan’s, they still be damaged by hurricanes, terrorist attacks or earthquakes.
The Associated Press reported this month that although the risk of an earthquake causing an accident at a U.S. nuclear plant is small, it’s far greater than previously thought — 24 times as high in one case.
Last week, staff at the NRC recommended nuclear power plant owners immediately re-evaluate earthquake and flooding hazards at their plants, following the advice of a task force created after Fukushima.
"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission calculated that Fukushima had a one in 1,000 years chance of having a tsunami larger than its sea wall," said David Lochbaum, director of a nuclear-safety project for the Union of Concerned Scientists, and a former NRC staff instructor.
"There are six reactors in the U.S. that the NRC figures have a one in 1,000 (years) chance or greater of having an earthquake larger than they’re designed to withstand," Lochbaum said.
If a catastrophe did strike and a nuclear accident rose to the level of Fukushima, who would pay the tab?
The insurance mandated by the Price-Anderson act has more than $12 billion in it, an amount that has been raised over the years since the law was implemented in 1957.
But staff at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the amount of insurance mandated was an arbitrary number not originally based on calculations of costs a disaster could wreak.
The fund was tapped in 1979 when the Three Mile Island accident took place in Pennsylvania.
Although no one was hurt in the accident according to the NRC, the nuclear insurance pool paid out a total of $71 million in claims in the decades since the accident.
A Fukushima-type accident on American soil would dwarf both the Three Mile Island claims and the totality of the insurance fund.
"If you broke down what the damage was, the cost of Fukushima, business interruption, supply chain problems, my guess is the (United States) government would not step in on any of that," said Kunreuther. "At the end of the day, there may very well be lawsuits or some kind of settlements with respect to what the government would have to do or the utilities would have to do."
One group that feels Price-Anderson does work is the nuclear industry’s policy organization, the Nuclear Energy Institute, which represents more than 350 companies — including Exelon and PSEG Nuclear — that run the four nuclear reactors in the state.
The institute explains the act on its website with the following headline: "Price-Anderson Act provides effective liability insurance at no cost to the public."
The $12.6 billion in reserve "seems highly appropriate," said Ellen Ginsberg, vice president and general counsel for the group. "It would be very speculative at this point to identify a different number based on an event in Japan."
Ginsberg also said modifications to Price-Anderson state that nothing in the law precludes Congress from going after nuclear companies for more money.
"It’s important not to speculate here, because the circumstances would dictate what Congress does," Ginsberg said, adding "I don’t expect that Congress would walk away from its ability to increase the amount from the industry."
But Neil Sheehan, an NRC spokesman, said it wasn’t clear how Congress would deal with the issue, but it could compensate victims, as in other major disasters.
He said it would be impossible to say if that money would be a loan to the industry or an outright bailout.
"What happens next is Congress would have to look at allocating additional funds much as they’re going to do now in response to Hurricane Irene damage, as they did after 9/11," Sheehan said. "The federal government becomes the insurer of last resort. Once these numbers are exceeded, the federal treasury would help to cover any additional costs."
Available at: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/09/us_ill-equipped_to_deal_with_j.html
6. India Wants New Tests Before French Reactors Order: Paris
(for personal use only)
India wants new test results in light of the Fukushima disaster before finalising a multi-billion-euro order with France's Areva for new reactors, France's energy minister said Monday.
Eric Besson said to AFP that India's nuclear atomic agency chief Srikumar Banerjee had told him in talks on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the UN atomic watchdog that he wanted a "post-Fukushima certification."
The Indian message was however passed on in a "very positive" fashion, Besson said at the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.
France's Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) is due to give by the end of the year its first recommendations on its nuclear power plants, including on a European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) under construction -- the kind eyed by India.
The disaster in March at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, caused when an earthquake and tsunami knocked out reactor cooling systems, has caused reactor orders around the world to be scrapped, frozen or delayed.
India, along with China as a major market for new nuclear plants, signed last December a framework deal worth an estimated seven billion euros ($9.5 billion) for Areva to build two EPR reactors, plus an option for four more.
Once finalised, it would allow Areva to steal a march on US and Japanese competitors in the race to sell reactors to India, which aims to tap atomic power for a quarter of its power by 2050 from less than three percent now.
A 34-year-old embargo on civilian nuclear exchanges with India, imposed in 1974 following a series of Indian nuclear tests, was lifted in 2009 after years of negotiations between India and the United States.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5h0lMxOANTf8eRiTZlWBHud-yIKYg?docId=CNG.793f5410a59f79f4a62496672fab41ab.251
1. Iran N. Chief: Iran to Shift Enrichment Activities to Fordo in 6 Months
Fars News Agency
(for personal use only)
Iran's nuclear chief Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani said the country's experts have transferred part of the Natanz enrichment facilities to the Fordo site near the city of Qom and that the job will be accomplished in the next six months.
He said equipment was being transferred to Fordo and that the facility would be inaugurated within six months.
Abbasi-Davani said the activity was moved to protect the nuclear program against any Israeli and US strikes.
Western powers have voiced particular alarm over Iran's decision to shift uranium enrichment to Fordo.
Asked whether Iran had any nuclear cooperation with North Korea, Abbasi-Davani said his country had so far not had any "need" for that. But he did not rule it out in future, saying any such cooperation would be under IAEA supervision.
Iran says its nuclear program is a peaceful drive to produce electricity so that the world's fourth-largest crude exporter can sell more of its oil and gas abroad. Tehran also stresses that the country is pursuing a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.
The US and its western allies allege that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program while they have never presented corroborative evidence to substantiate their allegations against the Islamic Republic.
Available at: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=9006290112
2. Iran Won't "Retaliate" for Nuclear Scientist Killings
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Iran will not retaliate against its enemies who killed Iranian nuclear scientists but wants international action to help prevent further attacks, its envoy to the U.N. atomic agency said on Tuesday.
Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh called the assassinations, which Tehran blames on Israel and other foes, a "crime against humanity" at an Iranian-organized media event in Vienna where the wife of one of the killed experts also spoke.
"We want not only our scientists, we want all scientists of the whole world, to be protected," he told reporters on the sidelines of an annual member state gathering of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
But, Soltanieh said, "the Islamic Republic of Iran is not going to retaliate."
In July, university lecturer Darioush Rezaie was shot dead by gunmen in eastern Tehran, the third murder of a scientist since 2009. One was killed in a car bomb, the second by a device detonated remotely.
Iran has said the attacks were the work of enemies that wished to deny it the right to develop nuclear technology which it says is aimed at generating electricity but which the West suspects has military goals.
Washington has denied any involvement in the murders. Israel has declined to comment.
The assassinations coincide with steadily deteriorating ties between Iran and the West in a long-running row over Tehran's disputed nuclear program, which has the potential to spark a wider conflict in the Middle East.
Israel, which like the United States has not ruled out military strikes if diplomacy fails to resolve the dispute, sees Iran's nuclear activities as a potential existential threat against the Jewish state, which Iran does not recognize.
The wife of killed scientist Majid Shahriyari said Israeli intelligence services had "put the assassination of Iran's scientific elites on the agenda" and that those who "falsely claim human rights" shared the blame through their silence.
Behjat Ghasemi, an academic who survived the attack that killed her husband as they drove to a Tehran university late last year, said he was a "legend and example of morality."
The current head of Iran's atomic energy organization, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, was slightly wounded in a separate attack the same day in November 2010. Also a scientist, he was named to the top nuclear energy chief job a few months later.
Soltanieh said the issue of attacks on scientists fell within the mandate of the Vienna-based U.N. atomic agency to strengthen nuclear security and combat nuclear terrorism.
"It is in the domain of IAEA ... we are trying to pursue it and hopefully in the end we will have a commission to investigate (the matter)," he said. "We will pursue (the issue) here and at the United Nations (in New York)."
Abbasi-Davani, at a news conference in Vienna on Monday, accused British spies of shadowing him around the world to gather information ahead of the failed attempt on his life.
Subject to U.N. sanctions because of what Western officials said was his involvement in suspected atomic arms research, he also blamed Israel and the United States for the attacks on him and other Iranian scientists.
Western countries have previously dismissed allegations of this nature from the Islamic state, which is one of the world's biggest oil producers.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/20/us-nuclear-iran-assassinations-idUSTRE78J4IT20110920
1. Africa Rising: Nigeria Plans to Build Nuclear Power Plants
Christian Science Monitor
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At least 10 African countries harbored ambitions to be the continent's newest nuclear power – until Japan's March 11 earthquake shook the idea off the shelf. Six months and roughly 16 billion barrels of consumed crude oil later, has Africa's nuclear race begun anew?
On the same Thursday afternoon last week, both the largest and second-largest economies in sub-Saharan Africa's – growing rivals Nigeria and South Africa – announced new nuclear programs. South Africa's cabinet will consider tens of billions of dollars worth of new nuclear power plants, said Energy Minister Dipuo Peters.
South Africa, Africa's top economy, holds the only set of nuclear stacks on the continent.
That's why South Africa's decision renders Nigeria's – to build just one – all the more astonishing to an industry still reeling from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that broke cooling systems at Japan's Fukushima I nuclear plant and sent seething radiation floating across the Pacific Ocean.
Nigeria was among the aspiring nuclear states that dropped plans after Fukushima. But on Thursday, President Goodluck Jonathan publicly asked the country's Atomic Energy Commission to move forward with plans to become Africa's second nuclear nation.
"It's a big vote of confidence," said Dr. Kelvin Kemm, a nuclear physicist and CEO for South African energy consultancy Stratek. "We're going through an emotional phase."
When the phase ends, Africa, the world's poorest continent, could be an unlikely boom region for builders of nuclear power plants.
"I see Africa as the main nuclear growth area in the next few years," Dr. Kemm says. "Africa needs electricity fast, and therefore it's open to suggestions. There's nowhere else that's this open."
But not everyone is that open.
Strides in more environmentally friendly electric stations – particularly solar plants – have drawn international interest to Africa, a continent flush with sun, breeze, and rivers up for damming.
China, already building three hydro-dams on the continent, will start six solar plants in Africa this year, and plans to build at least one in 40 African countries. Private consumption of Chinese-built solar panels has also increased in Africa – Nigeria included.
"[Nuclear plants] are already dinosaurs," said Cape Town Branch Coordinator Muna Lukhani of South Africa's green energy advocacy group Earth Life Africa. Referring to the steam-powered turbines central to most plants, he adds: "Nuclear power is an extremely expensive and dangerous way with which to boil water."
Expensive, sure: But less expensive by the plant.
For starters, the nuclear industry has been rocked by a second quake, the global economic downturn, which has shifted interest away from US and Europe, towards developing countries that need smaller reactors, cheaper, now.
Of the roughly 60 designs for nuclear, many of the more recent blueprints envision centers a tenth of the size of the 2,000 megawatt plants of the 1970s. By 2014, Bill Gates and Toshiba Corps – the laptop company – are aiming to start production of nuclear mini-reactors compact enough to sit in a hot tub.
These safes are so safe, Kemm says, that he would gladly "live in a tent next to a nuclear reactor for the rest of my life." Many of these plants require "no more than a half dozen highly-skilled individuals" to operate, he says. Plus, "these are small nuclear reactors," he adds. "You can scatter them wherever you want."
"Any African country can do it," he says.
Certainly, physicist Imoh Obioh on President Jonathan's Atomic Energy Commission thinks Nigeria can.
"Our plan is mainly to expand Nigeria's electricity generation base from fossil fuels (oil and gas) to include renewables and nuclear," Mr. Obioh wrote in an e-mail to the Christian Science Monitor. "This is to make sure that Nigeria gradually strives to attain energy security."
For Igor Khripunov, Associate Director for the Athens, Georgia-based Center for International Trade and Security, it's less a question of could than should.
"For Nigeria, there's no compelling reason to start generating electricity by building nuclear power infrastructure," he said citing the country's oil wealth, its horrid reputation for corruption, and the fact that its grid might not easily support a plant.
"Other considerations are behind their decision," he adds. "It's prestige, that's how I can interpret it."
Available at: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/Africa-Monitor/2011/0920/Africa-Rising-Nigeria-plans-to-build-nuclear-power-plants?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+feeds%2Fworld+%28Christian+Science+Monitor+|+World%29
2. China May Lift Ban on Nuclear Stations Early 2012 – Report
Soo Ai Peng
(for personal use only)
China may resume approvals for new nuclear power plant projects early next year when a nuclear safety plan is completed, the official China Securities Journal reported on Wednesday, citing sources it described as authoritative.
China suspended approval for new nuclear power plants in March in the wake of a devastating tsunami that hit Japan's northeast coast and left the ageing Fukushima reactor complex on the brink of meltdown.
The country completed last month a nationwide safety inspection of plants in operation as well as those under construction.
The government is expected to make public the findings of the inspection soon and a draft on the proposed nuclear safety plan may be finalized by the end of the year, the China Securities News said.
Once new regulations are in place, the government may lift the ban on new project approvals, the newspaper said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/21/china-nuclearpower-idUSL3E7KL00C20110921
3. Nuclear Power May Halve Market Share by 2050 – IAEA
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The market share of nuclear power in the world's total generation of electricity may more than halve to just over 6 percent by 2050 despite growth in the number of reactors in use, the United Nations atomic agency said on Tuesday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has revised down its projections for the use of nuclear power in the world in the wake of Japan's Fukushima accident, which prompted a rethink about this energy source across the globe.
"Nuclear power in our projections at best maintains its current market share," senior IAEA official Hans-Holger Rogner said. "But it is not that the industry doesn't have growth."
The Vienna-based U.N. body says it expects the number of reactors to increase by between 90 and 350 over the next two decades, from 432 units now.
Most of the growth is expected to take place in Asia, notably in economic powerhouses China and India.
But even in the high-growth scenario the market share will not change much from last year's 13.5 percent of total electricity generation, rising to 14 percent in 2030 before falling to 13.5 percent in 2050, the IAEA forecast said.
This reflects an anticipated rapid increase in total electricity output in the world over the coming four decades -- expected to more than triple by 2050.
As a result, the share for nuclear power could fall even if the sector's total output rises significantly.
In the IAEA's low projection, the share of nuclear power would fall to 11.8 percent in 2030 and to 6.2 percent in 2050.
Last year, the IAEA said it projected a market share for atomic energy at between 7.1 and 17 percent in 2050.
"Nuclear is not going to go away just because of Fukushima," Rogner said. "That doesn't mean that other events, better performance of the competition (other forms of energy), can severely cut into the nuclear market share."
The IAEA projections did not specify how other forms of energy -- such as oil- and gas-fired power plants, hydropower or renewables -- were expected to develop in the years ahead.
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano this week said interest for nuclear energy remained strong in countries which are considering introducing atomic power.
Increasing global demand for energy, climate change fears and dwindling oil and gas reserves were among factors behind growing interest in nuclear power before Fukushima, and they had not changed because of the accident, Amano said.
The huge earthquake and tsunami that crippled the plant in March, causing the world's worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, sparked a global debate about the future of nuclear energy.
Germany has decided to close all its reactors by 2022 and Italy voted in a referendum to ban nuclear for decades.
Available at: http://in.reuters.com/article/2011/09/20/idINIndia-59451520110920?rpc=401&feedType=RSS&feedName=businessNews&rpc=401
Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Dr Ansar Parvez has said Pakistan needs to build more nuclear power plants to meet its energy requirements and therefore it requires international collaboration.
“It has already been tasked by the government to install 8800 MW of nuclear power by 2030,” he said while addressing the 55th IAEA General Conference, according to a dispatch received here Tuesday.
As the head of Pakistani delegation, he called for equitable policies in the area of nuclear power generation and other peaceful applications, saying: “All of our civil nuclear power plants have already been under IAEA safeguard and this will continue to be our practice in the future.”
Dr Parvez informed the conference that historically also, Pakistan had always focused on developing a strong safety and regulatory infrastructure, which was strengthened by the establishment of an independent regulatory and licensing body, the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA), in 2001.
The PNRA has grown rapidly in the last decade to establish itself as a strong, independent and credible overseer. It has maintained very close links with the IAEA, both as a taker and a giver. “We attach great importance to nuclear security as a national responsibility. Pakistan is a party to several international regimes on nuclear safety and security and commits itself to participate in the related activities and programmes of the IAEA”, he stated.
He emphasised that IAEA can help ensure free flow of safety related technological information and equipment between member states. “This should be an intrinsic part of IAEA’s focus on nuclear safety. At the same time, more resources should be devoted to safety assurance. Striking the right balance between its different activities is going to be a challenge for IAEA, but we believe that it can be met by rationalising the priorities.”
Talking about PAEC Human Resource Development programme, he said: “We have a network of in-house educational and training institutions.”
Available at: http://nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Regional/Islamabad/21-Sep-2011/Pakistan-needs-more-Nplants-for-energy-needs
5. Germany Faces Backlash From Closing Nuclear Plants
Jason Walsh and Jabeen Bhatti
The Washington Times
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Germany’s recent retreat from nuclear power in the wake of Japan’s ongoing crisis already is causing legal and economic headaches.
On Monday, the Financial Court in Hamburg expressed doubts about the constitutionality of a new federal tax on nuclear fuel rods - a ruling hailed as a victory by nuclear power plant operators.
The court also approved a nuclear plant operator’s request to suspend collection of the tax and reimburse payments that already have been made.
A spokesman for energy supplier E.ON, which filed the first of several pending lawsuits against the tax, said the government had no legal basis to impose such a levy.
“It’s a first step. We will file suit over every plant [that has this tax liability],” company spokesman Mirko Kahre said of the court ruling.
The tax, which was implemented Jan. 1 on nuclear power plant operators, was expected to generate $2 billion to $2.75 billion in revenue annually.
However, Germany has bigger legal issues over its about-face on nuclear energy.
“The decision is a major blow for the government,” said Matthias Lang, a lawyer specializing in energy issues at Bird & Bird’s Dusseldorf offices. “But there is also a debate about the constitutionality of the decision to shut the plants down.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel closed the country’s seven oldest nuclear reactors three days after a March 11 tsunami caused a meltdown in reactors in Japan. Eight of Germany’s 19 plants remain shut.
Mrs. Merkel also placed a three-month moratorium on a law that extended the life of the country’s nuclear program.
In May, the government announced that all of Germany’s nuclear plants would be phased out by 2022, a dramatic reversal of policy for a country that produces as much as 23 percent of its electricity via nuclear energy.
Constitutional scholars across Germany said the moratorium was unconstitutional on the grounds that only the legislature could make such a move, barring an imminent threat to the public.
Meanwhile, the announced phaseout of nuclear energy already has come at a cost to the industry and the government. It is also blamed for slowing economic growth in the second quarter of this year.
Engineering conglomerate Siemens announced Sunday that it is shuttering its nuclear-business division.
“The chapter for us is closed … . We will no longer be involved in managing the building or financing of nuclear plants,” a company spokesman told the German newsweekly Der Spiegel.
Siemens is not alone. Rising energy costs already are hurting heavy industry in this country noted for its manufacturing capacity. In August, chemical producer Bayer, which employs 35,000 people in Germany and has global sales of $48 billion, issued a warning that it is considering leaving Germany because of high energy prices.
Germany’s renewable-energy industry is expecting a windfall in the demise of nuclear energy.
However, for now at least, Germany’s lost energy production from nuclear power is being filled by an increased use of fossil fuels - a painful irony for a green-energy policy - and by increased imports of electricity from other European countries that use nuclear energy.
“Saying we can run an industrial society on renewable energy is dumbing-down the truth for people,” said Heinz Horeis, who writes on scientific issues for German publications.
“Since the shutdown, we have become a net importer of electricity, and there has been no real plan. I would like to know what is going to happen come winter.”
Available at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/sep/19/germany-faces-backlash-from-closing-nuclear-plants/?page=all#pagebreak
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