2. Official: Japanese Nuclear Plant Stabilization Ahead of Schedule
Pamela Boykoff and Yoko Wakatsuki
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Efforts to stabilize Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, crippled by a March tsunami which triggered a nuclear crisis, are running ahead of schedule, according to the president of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which operates the plant.
Toshio Nishizawa told CNN Monday he hopes to achieve the second phase of the shutdown before a January deadline.
"I cannot promise you, but if things go smoothly with careful control, it is possible to bring the cold shutdown forward," said Nishizawa.
Cold shutdown requires a stable winding down of the operations of the reactors at a temperature under 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit).
Cooling systems at Fukushima Daiichi, about 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Tokyo, were knocked out by the tsunami which followed a massive earthquake March 11.
The disaster triggered the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, as the cores of reactors 1-3 overheated and spewed huge amounts of radioactive contamination across the surrounding area.
In April, Tokyo Electric laid out a six- to nine-month timetable for winding down the crisis and bringing the reactors to a complete shutdown. Engineers are working to restore normal cooling in the three reactors that melted down, as well as working to pump out and decontaminate an estimated 100,000 tons of water that has pooled in the basement and service tunnels of the plants during months of emergency measures.
TEPCO's president said the most difficult issue at present is the radioactive water. "We just had a typhoon. With the torrential rain, more of polluted water is being produced. We must not leak highly radioactive water outside of our facility."
More than 75,000 residents of the area around the crippled nuclear plant are unable to return to their homes because of high radiation levels. Nishizawa said TEPCO's top priorities are to restore the nuclear plant and to compensate the victims.
The company has set aside more than $5 billion to cover victims' compensation costs, including lost income and mental distress. Japan's government has said it will provide further funds, creating a state-backed entity to meet the large quantity of anticipated claims.
TEPCO has struggled to meet energy demand since Fukushima Daiichi was closed following the disaster. The Japanese government has mandated power-saving measures throughout the summer.
Nishizawa said while the company is committed to boosting energy generation from fossil fuels and renewables, the supply will not return to normal without the restart of its nuclear facilities that were not affected by the earthquake.
"I believe restarting the nuclear power plants is necessary to stably supply the energy to our users," he said. "We must effort for the restart. It is the most important thing for that is to show the people that Fukushima's situation is stabilized and the issue has come to the end. This is our responsibility."
Available at: http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/09/05/japan.nuclear.interview/
3. Nuclear Safety Tops Agenda for Next Year's Nuclear Security Summit
Yonhap News Agency
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Improving the safety of atomic energy, including measures to prevent a repeat of Japan's nuclear disaster, will top the agenda of next year's nuclear security summit in Seoul, key organizers said Monday.
Efforts have also been made to find new lines of "practical and specific" actions to address the threat posed by nuclear terrorism. Some 50 heads of state and international organizations will descend on Seoul next March for the second Nuclear Security Summit.
Nuclear safety has been in sharp focus since March's giant quake and tsunami ruined Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years, prompting countries with nuclear power plants to review the safety of atomic energy.
Japan's nuclear tragedy publicized the damage caused by nuclear accidents and the vulnerability of safety systems, raising dire concerns of a possible terrorist attack on a spent fuel pool or its cooling systems.
The Seoul summit is expected to focus on the interrelated subjects of nuclear security and safety, said Kim Bong-hyun, deputy foreign minister for multilateral and global affairs who serves as South Korea's chief expert for the world's largest gathering.
"There is a consensus that the issue of nuclear safety should be dealt with in the context of nuclear security and how it will help achieve it," Kim told Yonhap News Agency in an interview.
Other agenda items are the securing of all vulnerable atomic materials worldwide and preventing terrorists from obtaining nuclear materials as well as detecting and intercepting the illegal trade of nuclear goods, Kim said.
Expanding the scope of security for nuclear materials to radiological sources in hospitals and other public locations, beyond plutonium and highly enriched uranium, will also be discussed at the upcoming Seoul summit, he said.
Nuclear security has emerged as an important concept in countering nuclear terrorism as the possibility of nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorist groups has turned into a tangible threat since the Sept. 11 attacks.
U.S. President Barack Obama hosted the first summit in Washington last year with the vision of "a world without nuclear weapons."
Hosting the second summit is a symbolic occasion for South Korea where North Korea's nuclear defiance has been the pressing crisis and the upcoming summit is expected to present opportunities to underline renewed international efforts to end North Korea's nuclear ambitions, officials said.
The multilateral talks on ending the North's nuclear programs, involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan, have been stalled since late 2008. But a flurry of renewed diplomatic efforts has recently been underway among the six-party members to resume the stalled negotiations.
In May, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said he will invite North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to the Seoul summit, but only if Pyongyang renounces its nuclear weapons programs.
Among leaders attending the Seoul summit will be heads of five nations in the six-party talks, including U.S. President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao.
South Korea, which is trying to boost its international profile, is gearing up for preparations to make the upcoming summit a successful gathering.
South Korea has ample experience of staging a variety of global events, including the 1988 Summer Olympics, the 2002 World Cup and, most recently, the Group of 20 summit of world leaders last November.
But next year's nuclear summit will be the biggest-ever diplomatic gathering for a nation that has created a vibrant democracy and an economic miracle from the ruins of the 1950-53 Korean War.
"The 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit will be the largest gathering of heads of state to be hosted by South Korea," said Cho Hee-yong, secretary-general at the Preparatory and Planning Office for the summit.
"By letting us become one of the leading groups on the issue of international security and peace, the summit is expected to significantly boost our national profile and brand."
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2011/09/05/91/0301000000AEN20110905000700315F.HTML
4. Taiwan Completes First Phase of Nuclear Safety Review: AEC
Wu Chia-yin and Lilian Wu
Focus Taiwan News Channel
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Taiwan has completed the first phase of a comprehensive nuclear safety review, including checks on nuclear power plant safety, that was launched following Japan's nuclear disaster earlier this year, an Atomic Energy Council (AEC) official said Monday.
Lee Jo-chan, director of the AEC's Department of Radiation Protection, said the council has also strengthened its radiation protection capacity and contingency mechanism.
He was speaking at a two-day Taiwan-Japan Science and Technology Forum in Taipei, which was held to review the impact of the March 11 earthquake that devastated northeastern Japan and triggered a major nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Japanese opinion leaders, parliamentarians and representatives of academic institutes were invited to discuss the issue with officials from the AEC, the National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction, and the Digital Information Management Center of Acer.
Lee said that since the Fukushima nuclear accident, only small traces of radiation have been found on tourists arriving from Japan, or in imported Japanese food, imported containers, and ambient air.
"The incident has not caused nuclear safety worries," Lee said.
The Fukushima incident has provided a valuable experience to Taiwan, Lee said, while announcing that Taiwan had completed the first phase of an overall examination of its nuclear safety system.
In terms of nuclear power plant safety, the focus will be to guard against earthquakes and tsunamis and step up the preparation of water and electricity reserves.
The strengthening of the contingency mechanism will enhance Taiwan's capacity to detect the spread of radioactive substances and alert the public in real-time to evacuate in the right direction and to the right locations.
Available at: http://focustaiwan.tw/ShowNews/WebNews_Detail.aspx?Type=aECO&ID=201109050036
5. Defense Establishment to Simulate Strike on Nuclear Facility
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The defense establishment will hold a special emergency drill this week, simulating an enemy strike on Israel's nuclear facility.
"Operation Fernando" will aim to test the defense establishment's readiness for the worst case scenario – a missile strike on the facility itself or its immediate surroundings, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
The drill, whose details have been classified as top secret, is scheduled for Tuesday. Given its classification, only a handful of senior defense establishment officials are privy to its outline.
The Israel Atomic Energy Commission will oversee the drill, along with the Home Front Command and Ministry for Home Front Defense.
Apart from an enemy strike scenario, "Operation Fernando" also aims to test the implementation of various lessons learned from Japan's Fukushima disaster.
"Operation Fernando" is the first of its kind to be held in Israel in the past seven years. Meanwhile, the defense establishment has finished its review of the results of "Turning Point 5" – the nationwide Home Front Command emergency drill, which tested war readiness in 85 cities and towns across Israel.
The report found that while emergency services and municipalities' communication and coordination with the Home Front Command had improved, the coordination between the emergency services themselves was still lacking.
Available at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4117520,00.html
6. Swiss Nuclear Smuggling Suspects to Face Charges
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Three Swiss men suspected of aiding an international nuclear smuggling ring that supplied Libya and Iran are likely to face charges this fall, prosecutors said Friday.
Urs Tinner, his brother Marco and their father Friedrich have been under investigation by Swiss authorities for almost a decade for supplying equipment and technical know-how to a black market nuclear network led by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.
Walburga Bur, a spokeswoman for the Federal Prosecutors Office in Bern, told The Associated Press that the men's indictment is planned for this fall.
Bur said a shortened procedure, under which defendants admit the basic charges against them but face no more than five years imprisonment, was possible. Breaking Swiss laws banning the export of nuclear material normally carries a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.
Bur declined to comment on a report in the Swiss daily Blick, which claimed that federal prosecutors and the men's lawyers were in negotiations for a shortened procedure. Blick reported Friday that such a deal could ensure politically sensitive aspects of the investigation aren't discussed in court.
The lawyers didn't immediately respond to emails and telephone messages requesting comment.
Urs Tinner, who like his brother and father has been released on bail pending charges, claimed in an 2009 interview with Swiss TV station SF1 that he had worked with U.S. intelligence, tipping it off about a delivery of centrifuge parts meant for Libya's nuclear weapons program.
The shipment was seized at the Italian port of Taranto in 2003, forcing Libya to admit and eventually renounce its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, and exposing the A.Q. Khan smuggling ring.
The case against the Tinners prompted a political outcry in Switzerland three years ago when it was revealed that the Swiss government had ordered key evidence shredded.
The government cited national security concerns, but a parliamentary panel investigating the incident found there had been no immediate danger to Switzerland's internal or external security.
Available at: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/09/02/3881103/swiss-nuclear-smuggling-suspects.html
The project to build a second Nuclear Power Plant in Bulgaria's Danube town of Belene is strategic and must be launched again as soon as possible, according the presidential hopeful, Ivaylo Kalfin.
Kalfin, a former Foreign Affairs Minister, and current Member of the European Parliament, is the presidential candidate of the major opposition force in Bulgaria – the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP.
He voiced his firm conviction that in order for the country to keep its leading position as producer of electric power in the region, Bulgaria must finish the second NPP.
"If we stop Belene, we will have to pay damages and claims in the amount of BGN 1 B. We have a permit from the European Union to build an NPP of this type. The later we do it, the less sense the plant will make," the MEP stated.
According to Kalfin, the current cabinet of the center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, GERB, party, had fiddled around the project in the last two years over lack political will and clarity on the matter.
On the topic of the upcoming elections, Kalfin stated that his main opponent would be the nomination of GERB.
"Whoever he or she is, it is going to be someone close to Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, someone professing his value and policies," the MEP concluded.
In the past three years, Russia, including directly through its state leader Vladimir Putin, offered Bulgaria funding for the Belene NPP on numerous occasions but both current Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and his predecessor Sergey Stanishev have dismissed such an opportunity.
In the last months of the Stanishev government in early 2009, Russian Prime Minister Putin offered Bulgaria a Russian state loan of EUR 4 B for the Belene plant, which Bulgaria's then PM Stanishev refused.
In late 2009, after the Borisov government took over, Rosatom offered Bulgaria a loan of EUR 2 B so that the construction can continue, in exchange for a stake in the future plant that the Bulgarian government could then buy out by returning the money. The offer was refused by the Borisov Cabinet which also made it clear it would construct the Belene plant only if an European (apparently meaning EU or Western European) strategic investor can be found.
Under the existing non-binding agreements, the Russian government, in addition to constructing the Belene plant, might end up with a stake of 25%-50%.
While the future of the 2000-MW Belene power plant remains hanging in the air, the bone of the latest contention between the Russian Atomstroyexport and the Bulgarian National Electric Company, NEK, is related with equipment for the NPP, whose construction was first started in 1980s.
Atomstroyexport, the company chosen to build the second Bulgarian NPP formally confirmed in late July 2011 that it had filed a lawsuit for EUR 58 M NEK at the International Court of Arbitration in Paris as a result of NEK's failure to pay on time for already completed works.
The lawsuit in question, however, and its potential Bulgarian counterstrike refer to a dispute over equipment delivery payments, and not to the final decision on the fate of the Belene project that the Bulgarian state has to make.
Atomstroyexport claims that it has been completing tasks on the Belene project on credit, on Bulgaria's request, and regardless of its dispute with the Bulgarian government over the price of the NPP, and the need to sign a final construction contract.
NEK has reacted with surprise, and with a threat that it will launch a counter lawsuit against Atomstroyexport worth EUR 61 M that the Russian company owes to it under a contract to buy back the old equipment at the Belene NPP construction site, which has been stored there since 1991. NEK explained that the delayed payments by Atomstroyexport over the contract in question are the reason it terminated its payments to the Russian company - apparently, thus generating the reason for Atomstroyexport's claims.
According to the Bulgarian state electricity company, Atomstroyexport has said in a letter that it deems the Bulgarian claims justified, and offered a new deal for settling the equipment payment questions. NEK has also stated that it is "open for dialogue" for the resolution of the existing problems.
The Russian company Atomstroyexport itself has underscored in a media statement that the lawsuit it filed with the International Arbitration Court "should in no way be viewed as a measure of exerting pressure" in order to force the Bulgarian government to make a final decision on the fate of the vastly troubled and controversial Belene nuclear project.
In the event that the talks between NEK and Atomstroyexport for the overall contract for the construction of Belene fail, the Russian state company will most likely file a EUR 1 B lawsuit against Bulgaria but such a development would not occur before October 2011, if it does at all, because the two governments have negotiated a 3-month extension on the final decision that Bulgaria has to make.
On July 1, NEK and Atomstroyexport signed an annex extending by 3 months their contract for the construction of the Belene NPP, the new "Annex No. 13" to the 2006 contract.
The newly-signed document effectively provides the two parties with a deadline until September 30, 2011, to hammer out answers to questions related with the technical project for the Belene NPP, the market analysis by the project consultant HSBC, and further progress on the contract for construction and supplies, which is to be made more flexible to meet requirements by potential international investors.
However, it does not contain a commitment to a certain deadline for reaching a final construction deal. The greatest issue over which Bulgaria and Russia have been haggling for the past two years under the Borisov Cabinet has been the price of the project, with Russia insisting it should be no less than EUR 6.3 B, while Bulgaria is demanding a price of no more than EUR 5 B.
A provision in the new annex to the Bulgaria-Russia Belene deal provides for the setting-up of a financial working group of the involved parties to clarify the conditions for funding offered by Russia.
Available at: http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=131776
2. Cable: Turkey More Dependent on Russia With Nuclear Plant
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Turkey's deal with Russia to build the country's first nuclear power plant in the southern province of Mersin will deepen its dependency on Russia, a US diplomat said in a recently released cable on WikiLeaks' website.
Last year Parliament approved the bill on an agreement between Russia and Turkey for the construction of Turkey's first nuclear power plant in the coastal town of Akkuyu, in Mersin province. According to the agreement, which was signed during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's official visit to Turkey in May 2010, the two countries will cooperate on the construction and operation of the power plant.
A consortium led by state-controlled Russian builder Atomstroyexport will construct the plant in Akkuyu, paying the whole cost of construction for the nuclear plant, which is estimated to be around $20 billion. The firm will be able to transfer up to 49 percent of its shares to another firm.
Practically all of Turkey's natural gas comes from Russia. The arrangement will deepen Turkey's dependency on the Russian energy sector, which some in Turkey oppose, says John Beyrle, US ambassador to Moscow, in the leaked document written on April 3, 2009 and released on Aug. 25 of this year.
The diplomat further says in the cable that following the February 2009 visit of Turkish President Abdullah Gül to Moscow, Atomstroyexport proposed a build-own-operate (BOO) arrangement for four more reactors in Turkey. The diplomat also quoted Bulat Nigmatulin, Russia's former deputy minister for atomic energy, as saying in March 2009 that a BOO agreement could hardly be profitable with the 15-year price per kilowatt scheme. The US ambassador noted that Nigmatulin “saw this as a showstopper.”
“Nigmatulin told us that the tender could be canceled for one of several reasons; the most likely being the high cost per kilowatt that Russia would charge for the electricity generated by the plant and the economically unsound 15-year pricing scheme,” the envoy says in the cable.
Available at: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-255546-cable-turkey-more-dependent-on-russia-with-nuclear-plant.html
The U.N. nuclear agency has invited its members -- including Israel, Arab states and Iran -- to attend rare talks later this year about the volatile Middle East and efforts to rid the world of atomic bombs, it said on Friday.
While Israel and some Arab nations have indicated readiness to take part in the planned forum in Vienna in November, Iran said it saw no justification for such a meeting now.
In a letter to Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran's envoy to the IAEA took a swipe at Tehran's arch-foe Israel, which is widely believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal.
Nuclear weapons are especially controversial in the Middle East. Arab states often criticize Israel over its presumed nuclear arsenal. Israel and the United States see Iran as the region's main proliferation threat, accusing Tehran of covertly seeking to develop nuclear arms. Iran denies this.
"We are of the view that stability cannot be achieved in a region where massive imbalances in military capabilities are maintained, particularly through the possession of nuclear weapons which allow one party to threaten its neighbors and the region," Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh wrote.
The letter was made available to Reuters Friday.
A gathering of regional adversaries around the same table to talk about nuclear arms and disarmament could be symbolically important, even though any substantive progress is likely to remain elusive.
Amano wrote to IAEA member states about attending the November 21-22 forum to debate experience from other parts of the world in establishing zones free of nuclear weapons, such as Africa and Latin America, the U.N. agency said in a statement.
Participants would "consider how the experience of nuclear-weapons free zones in several regions of the world could be relevant to the Middle East," the IAEA added.
Diplomats stress that no decisions are expected at the planned talks, but that they can be useful as a way to start a dialogue and help build badly needed confidence in the region.
In a report circulated to member states Friday, Amano said he had sought the views of Middle East countries on the forum's agenda. Twelve Middle Eastern states, including Egypt, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Syria, had written back.
He suggested that his efforts had been broadly welcomed, even though some Arab states proposed changes to the agenda.
Amano "will pursue further consultations with member states of the Middle East region and with other interested parties on arrangements conducive to the Forum being a constructive contribution toward the objective of the establishment" of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, the report said.
Amano told Reuters last month he saw "momentum" for his plan to host discussions between Israel and Arab states. IAEA members decided in 2000 that such a meeting should take place but agreement on the agenda and other issues has been lacking.
"A nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East will not be achieved tomorrow, everyone knows it, but we can get closer," Amano said in the August 19 interview. "Increasing confidence is very much needed, even a small step is helpful."
Israel is widely assumed to hold the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal and is also the only country in the region outside the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Arab states, backed by Iran, say this poses a threat to peace and stability. They want Israel to subject all its atomic facilities to IAEA monitoring.
Israel, which has never confirmed or denied having atom bombs, says it will only join the NPT if there is a comprehensive Middle East peace. If it signed the pact, the Jewish state would have to renounce nuclear weaponry.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/02/us-nuclear-mideast-iaea-idUSTRE7815NC20110902
5. US VP Biden Warns Czechs Over Russian Nuke Contracts
Oil & Gas Eurasia
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US Vice-President Joe Biden warned Czechs and the rest of Europe against overreliance on Russian power supplies and flagged up an American offer to build new nuclear power stations in the country on his 2009 visit to Prague, leaked diplomatic dispatches released by the whistle blowing site WikiLeaks have revealed.
Biden, visiting Prague in October that year, passed on his worries and sales pitch for US companies to build new reactors at the Temelín nuclear power plant in meetings with the then Czech caretaker Prime Minister Jan Fischer.
The pitch for US nuclear power plant constructor Westinghouse was by all accounts pretty blatant. “Have I got a deal for you. If you want to get unhooked from Russia, look to Westinghouse,” Biden said, according to the leaked dispatches.
The Vice-President also questioned why the Czechs would want Russia to have control of gas, oil and nuclear supplies. Biden also made an attack on the level of Russia’s nuclear technology. “Westinghouse is a quality company; they don’t build Chernobyls,” he commented, referring to the disaster at the nuclear power plant accident that was then in the Soviet Union.
Available at: http://www.oilandgaseurasia.com/news/p/0/news/12711
1. Report on Iran Increases Military Nuclear Worries – France
Kuwait News Agency
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France said on Monday that the latest report on Iran's nuclear activities has increased concerns about "the eventual military dimension of the Iranian nuclear programme," notably about efforts linked with developing a nuclear payload for a missile.
The French Foreign Ministry indicated here that it had received, on September 2, the latest report on Iran from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog. The report is to be presented to the next meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors in Vienna on September 12-15.
"This report shows the increasing worry at the Agency on the question of the eventual military dimension of the Iranian nuclear programme, concerning notably activities relative to the perfecting of a nuclear payload on a missile," the French Foreign Ministry pointed out.
He noted that the latest IAEA report also shows "the active pursuit by Iran in the areas of (uranium) enrichment and heavy water (production), in violation of Security Council resolutions.
Four United Nations Security Resolutions have placed sanctions on Iran for its "sensitive" nuclear activities and for refusing to halt uranium enrichment.
Iran says it is pursuing a peaceful nuclear policy to provide energy for domestic markets but experts say enriched uranium is a "dual purpose" material and could be used alternatively in civil or military applications.
"Iran continues to accumulate uranium enriched at 3.5 percent and 20 percent. It is reinforcing also its production capacities. The Agency mentions the installation of a first centrifuge cycle in the enrichment plant in Qom where 20 percent grade uranium is destined to be produced," Valero remarked.
"The Iranian nuclear programme is placing an unacceptable threat on the non-proliferation regime and on regional stability.
The IAEA report confirms once again the refusal of Iran to come into conformity with its international obligations," the official added in his answer.
He noted that the international community "remains open to dialogue" with Iran but that the recent refusal by Tehran for cooperation on its nuclear sectors means "Iran is, for the moment, refusing to negotiate seriously." Valero called for continued resolute and united action in the international community to bring Iran back to the negotiating table and warned Iran that the costs of pursuing its "sensitive activities" would only grow if it did not change its position.
Last week, in an address to France's diplomatic corps, President Nicolas Sarkozy warned Iran that there was a risk of a pre-emptive strike against its nuclear sites if it did not change its orientation. He said this could provoke an international crisis that France did not want to contemplate.
Iran protested the French President's comments as out of touch with reality.
Available at: http://www.kuna.net.kw/NewsAgenciesPublicSite/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2188355&Language=en
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