1. EU Tightens Iran Sanctions in Bid for Deal on Atomic Program
Jonathan Stearns and Ewa Krukowsk
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The European Union tightened sanctions on Iran in a bid to persuade Tehran to permit more international scrutiny of its nuclear program and avert a possible military conflict.
EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg today approved extra curbs on trade with Iran and on its finance, energy and transport industries following an oil embargo and a central-bank asset freeze earlier this year. The ministers also froze the assets of 34 Iranian entities to hinder the Iranian government’s ability to raise funds for its atomic program, which the U.S. and EU say is aimed at producing weapons.
The new measures, which complement U.S. restrictions and are meant to close loopholes in existing European sanctions, come after global talks on Iranian atomic activities yielded little progress in recent months and the Israeli government warned of a growing threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. The Islamic republic says its atomic program is for civilian purposes.
“The EU’s message today is clear: Iran should not underestimate our resolve,” U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said in an e-mailed statement. “We will continue to do all we can to increase the peaceful pressure on Iran to change course and to return to talks ready to reach a negotiated solution by addressing the world’s concerns.”
The Gulf nation has increased production of 20 percent enriched uranium and grew its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Aug. 30. Highly enriched uranium can be used to produce electricity or to manufacture an atomic bomb.
The Islamic republic today reiterated an offer to suspend domestic production of medium-enriched uranium in exchange for fuel for its Tehran Research Reactor, according to Press TV.
While Iran has the right to nuclear power for electricity purposes, it has to give up on any ambitions to develop nuclear weapons, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said, adding that the current EU approach is starting to pay off.
“We want a political and diplomatic solution,” Westerwelle said before the meeting. “Sanctions are beginning to work. That sanctions are beginning to work shows that a political and diplomatic solution is possible. So far, we haven’t seen sufficient readiness for substantial talks on the atomic program.”
As a part of the package adopted today, the EU prohibited transactions between European and Iranian banks except for those “explicitly authorized in advance by national authorities under strict conditions,” to ensure that the bloc’s financial institutions don’t process funds that contribute to the Iranian nuclear program, according to an EU statement. Restrictions were also tightened on Iran’s central bank.
The sanctions will be published in the EU Official Journal tomorrow.
The new restrictions also include a ban on exports to Iran of materials that could be used in the Iranian nuclear and ballistic programs, in particular graphite, aluminum and steel as well as industrial software. In addition, the EU prohibited the import of natural gas from Iran and broadened the existing export ban on key equipment for the Iranian oil, gas and petrochemical industries.
Iran’s budget deficit may widen the most since at least 2007 as the U.S. and Europe starve Iran of foreign currency by imposing an embargo on oil, the country’s main export, and blocking other transactions in dollars and euros, according to International Monetary Fund forecasts published last week.
Oil output in Iran, previously the second-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia, has sagged to 2.63 million barrels a day in September from 2.85 million barrels in August, the International Energy Agency said in a report on Oct. 12. Exports will remain “quite low for the next few years,” according to Antoine Halff, the agency’s head of oil industry and markets division.
Furthermore, the package adopted today imposed new restrictions in the shipping industry, prohibiting the use of vessels that belong to EU citizens and companies for transporting or storing Iranian oil and petrochemical products. The ministers also banned flagging and classification services for Iranian oil tankers and cargo vessels and decided that EU nations will no longer support trade with Iran through new short-term export credits, guarantees or insurance.
The sanctions list will be extended to include 34 entities that provide “substantial financial support to the Iranian government” and one person involved in the country’s nuclear program, according to the EU statement. The companies are active notably in the oil and gas industry and in the financial sector, the EU said.
Israel has threatened to attack to stop Iran’s nuclear program if the sanctions fail to curb it. Iranian leaders say they won’t back down.
“It’s very, very important that Iran is sent a very strong signal,” Catherine Ashton, the 27-nation EU’s foreign policy chief, said before today’s meeting. “We want to see a negotiated agreement.”
Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-10-15/eu-tightens-iran-sanctions-in-bid-for-accord-on-nuclear-program
2. Iran Could Halt 20 Pct Uranium Enrichment if Given Fuel - Officials
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Iran would negotiate on halting higher-grade uranium enrichment if given fuel for a research reactor, senior officials said, reviving a previous offer in a possible attempt to show flexibility in stalled nuclear talks with world powers.
The talks have made scant progress since resuming in April, leading to harsher Western sanctions against Iran and increasing talk of Israeli air strikes on its arch-adversary over concerns Tehran is covertly seeking the means to develop nuclear weapons.
The Islamic Republic's economy is suffering from the tightened noose of sanctions, with the rial currency losing nearly two-thirds of its value to the dollar over the past year.
"If a guarantee is provided to supply the 20 percent (enriched) fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, our officials are ready to enter talks about 20 percent enrichment," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at a Eurasian media forum in Kazakhstan on Friday, according to Iran's Press TV.
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel e arlier in the week: "If our right to enrichment is recognised, we are prepared to offer an exchange. We would voluntarily limit the extent of our enrichment program, but in return we would need a guaranteed supply of the relevant fuels from abroad."
At the heart of Iran's dispute with world powers is its insistence on the right to enrich uranium and that economic sanctions should be lifted before it stops activities that could lead to its achieving the capability to produce nuclear weapons.
The United States and European allies reject such conditions. They say Iran forfeited a right to enrich by having concealed sensitive nuclear work from U.N. inspectors and blocking their inquiry into suspected bomb research.
They also believe that dropping sanctions first would remove any incentive for Iran to come clean and negotiate seriously.
Mehmanparast, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, spoke on the same day the European Union provisionally approved yet wider economic sanctions complementing U.S. plans for further financial penalties.
Mehmanparast said any flexibility shown by Iran should be matched by reciprocal measures from world powers, including full recognition of Iran's right to enrich uranium, according to Saturday's Press TV report.
There is no sign Iran's readiness to discuss its enrichment of uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 percent would go anywhere near enough to satisfy the demands of the West.
World powers want Iran to stop 20 percent enrichment, shut down the Fordow underground centrifuge plant where this work is carried out and ship out its stockpile of this material.
Western officials say such gestures would serve to raise confidence in Iranian intentions but more would be needed to obtain any significant relief from sanctions.
Iran says it needs uranium enriched to a fissile purity of 20 percent for a medical research reactor in Tehran, but this would also overcome most of the hurdles in terms of technology and time to the 90 percent level suitable for nuclear weapons.
According to the latest International Atomic Energy Agency watchdog report, issued in August, Iran has a stockpile of 20 percent uranium of just over 90 kilograms (200 pounds).
Traditionally experts say 200-250 kg would be required for one nuclear device, if it is refined further to weapons grade, but some say less would do. Iran is believed to be producing about 15 kg per month.
A U.S.-based think tank earlier this week said Iran would currently need at least two to four months to refine enough uranium for one bomb but that considerably more time would be required to assemble a deliverable nuclear weapon.
Available at: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/10/13/iran-nuclear-enrichment-fuel-negotiation-idINDEE89C03E20121013
1. Lithuanians Send Nuclear Plant Back to Drawing Board
Christian Lowe and Andrius Sytas
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Lithuanians rejected a plan to build a nuclear plant to cut dependence on imports of Russian energy, in a non-binding referendum that does not kill off the project but leaves a question mark over its future.
Support for the plant in Lithuania, one of the European Union states most dependent on imported energy, waned after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan last year.
With results counted from all but a handful of Lithuania's districts after Sunday's referendum, 62.74 percent voted "No", while 34.01 percent were in favor.
Turnout was about 52 percent, just over the threshold to make the referendum valid.
Lithuanian's Baltic neighbors Estonia and Lithuania, whose energy firms were expected to help finance the power plant, said they were still interested but that the referendum would make it harder to get the project off the ground.
The referendum on Sunday was consultative, so Lithuania's leaders are not obliged to scrap the power plant. The vote was held alongside a parliamentary election which is likely to hand power to an opposition coalition.
Japanese-U.S. joint venture Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy was lined up to build the plant.
Leaders of the two opposition parties which did best in the election said the project could not go ahead in the form it is in now, but did not rule out proceeding once they had more information, especially about financing.
"We are not anti-nuclear power. We are against this project which was given to parliament for discussion very late before the election," said Algirdas Butkevicius, head of the second-placed Social Democrat party.
"We are rational people. We will talk. We will not take any hurried decisions."
Andres Tropp, of Estonian energy firm Eesti Energia, said in a statement sent to Reuters that it was up to the new government in Lithuania whether it goes ahead with the project.
"As far as Eesti Energia is concerned then it is obvious that the risks related to execution of the project have raised significantly and we shall definitely take it into account," Tropp said.
The office of the Latvian prime minister's office noted in a statement that the vote was not binding, but said: "At this moment we can predict it would make the progress of the ... project more difficult."
The Lithuanian government that was voted out in Sunday's election had proposed building the new plant on the site of the Soviet-built Ignalina plant in eastern Lithuania, that was shut in 2009.
Lithuania's finance ministry projects the total cost of building the plant at 6.8 billion euros. It says 4 billion euros would come from loans, and the rest would be put up by the contractor and energy firms in the Baltic states.
A spokesman for Hitachi, Terry Kubo, told Reuters the firm expected more debate on the plant in Lithuania and was ready to provide the new government which all necessary information.
"Hitachi remains committed to contributing to the energy security of Lithuania with our technology, in response to its request," Kubo said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/15/us-lithuania-nuclear-idUSBRE89E0BW20121015
2. Poland Sticks to Plan to Build $15.8 Bln Nuclear Power Station
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Poland will pursue its plan to build the country's first nuclear power station, a government member said on Monday, playing down suggestions from commentators that the 50 billion zlotys ($15.8 billion) investment might be scrapped.
The nuclear programme, run by Poland's top utility PGE , was not mentioned in Prime Minister Donald Tusk's policy speech on Friday, which enumerated a number of planned investments in infrastructure to boost a slowing economy.
The government's plan for the power sector assumes spending around 60 billion zlotys by the end of the decade on eight new power units in Turow, Opole, Pulawy, Blachownia, Stalowa Wola, Jaworzno, Kozienice and Wloclawek.
"There will be an additional 50 billion zlotys on the power station, but this investment decision, the choice of technology, this will come only in 2015," Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski told broadcaster TVP Info.
He added the company managing the nuclear project has just started to seek a location for the power station, a process which should end in 2015 as well.
European Union member Poland wants to develop nuclear power to reduce its dependence on highly polluting coal. It aims to launch a 3 gigawatt nuclear plant by 2023 and double that capacity by 2030.
U.S.-Japanese group GE Hitachi , France's Areva and Westinghouse, a U.S. unit of Japan's Toshiba, have all signaled interest in supplying technology for the project.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/15/poland-nuclear-idUSL5E8LF1CB20121015
3. Egypt: Shura Council to Discuss Construction of Al-Dabaa Nuclear Plant
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The Shura Council will discuss on Tuesday the construction of Egypt's first nuclear power plant at al-Dabaa with head of the Nuclear plants Authority (NPPA) attending.
The Shura Council is assigned with drafting a detailed report and referring it to the Cabinet and the president on the program and steps to be made for building the first nuclear plant.
In statements to al-Gomhuria, Eng. Mahmoud Balbaa, the Minister of Electricity, said that president Mohammed Morsi is giving a special attention to the nuclear program and that he made directives to all the state agencies to provide a fertile soil for implementing this program.
The minister pointed out that Egypt's needs of fuel are rising by 10% annually, and that the ministry of electricity presented a full-fledged study to the Ministry of Petroleum on the quantities of oil needed to operate the power plants from October until September, 2013.
Available at: http://allafrica.com/stories/201210140019.html
The launch of the Trekkopje uranium mine in Namibia will be postponed until market conditions improve, Areva has announced. The project will enter a care and maintenance program at the end of 2012, which would allow it to be restarted at a later date.
The drop in uranium demand as well as correspondingly lower prices after the Fukushima accident led Areva to slow down development of the Trekkopje project in October 2011. The company said that the slowdown would "allow more time to optimize the technical and economic drivers of the future operation" and that it was it was "engaged in an intensive program to find innovative solutions for the launch of the mine."
However, the company has now announced that, "considering both the continued decrease of uranium prices coupled with the investments yet to be made on site, Areva has no other option than to postpone the launch of the Trekkopje mine."
The Trekkopje project currently consists of a pilot phase, called MIDI, which first produced uranium concentrate in January 2011. A total of more than 400 tonnes of uranium was to be produced in the MIDI phase, which was to continue until the end of 2012 to build up the workforce and determine the project's economic feasibility. Following this, the calendar for the full-scale production phase, called MAXI, was to be determined according to conditions in the uranium market.
The ore at Trekkopje has very low uranium content, and the challenging project will be the world's first uranium mine to use a sodium carbonate/bicarbonate heap leach process. Some 100,000 tonnes of rock per day would need to be processed in order to produce the planned output of 3000 tonnes of uranium per year.
The company said that it will continue with construction work at the site until the end of the year. However, all existing installations - the pilot project MIDI and the final phase MAXI - will then be put under a structured care and maintenance program, at a cost of $10 million per year. This would allow the project to resume "in the best possible conditions as soon as the overall market environment allows it."
"The Trekkopje mine nevertheless is a strategic asset for Areva and the group will reassess the economic situation on a regular basis," the company said.
Areva inaugurated Namibia's first seawater desalination plant in April 2010. The plant - jointly owned by Areva and local company United Africa Group - will eventually produce some 20 million cubic metres of potable water per year. This would be sufficient to allow Areva to operate the Trekkopje mine without having to pump any water from the soil, as well as supplying about 6 million cubic metres of water annually to other miners in Namibia's Erongo region. Despite its decision to postpone the Trekkopje mine, Areva said that this desalination plant "will remain in operation to produce water for local industries and populations."
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/ENF-Areva_to_mothball_Trekkopje_project-1210125.html
1. Russia Unhappy with India over Kudankulam, Sistema Investments
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Russia today made very clear to India its unhappiness over two key bilateral issues-- Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) 3 and 4 and investments by its telecom company Sistema in the country, saying rules of the game should never be reconsidered till it is over.
It also stressed that government should "demonstratively" help the business representatives to solve issues emerging during their contact with the bureaucracy, saying business community would stay off, if there were scandals.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin co-chaired the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission meeting on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC) during which they also deliberated on these contentious issues.
Addressing a joint press conference, the two leaders agreed that efforts have to be made to achieve the desired bilateral trade target of USD 20 billion by 2015.
Outlining three factors to have strong economic relations, Rogozin said it included that "we should never reconsider the rules of the game once the game has begun. And we should hold the rules till the game is over," and added that it was important to fulfil the agreements achieved.
Though he did not mention Sistema, the reference was clear as earlier the allotment was done on first-come-first- serve basis and now there is recommendation by an EGoM (empowered group of ministers) for auctioning of spectrum.
On Sistema, Krishna made it clear that he will not be able to comment on the USD 3.1 billion Russian project as the matter was before the court but gave an assurance that the government will try to work on a strategy to pursue strong economic relations.
On Kudankulam, Krishna said, "We did discuss the preparatory work for the units 3 and 4 of KKNPP....Further techno-commercial agreement is still being negotiated by our experts and I have no doubt that we will come to mutually acceptable resolution of this issue."
Ahead of his meeting, Rogozin had yesterday said the cost of the third and fourth units of the Kudankulam atomic power plant would escalate if it is brought under the purview of India's civil nuclear liability law over which differences remained.
Differences in perception over the nuclear liability law have become a bone of contention between India and Russia in negotiations on units III and IV. The law makes foreign suppliers liable for compensation in the event of accident.
Russia argues that the civil nuclear liability law should not apply to these units as the agreement on them predates the 2010 civil liability law, and could be seen as "grandfathered" by the original 1988 agreement while India has clearly stated that making an exception for Russia will amount to diluting its law which will encourage the US and France to seek similar exemptions, which it cannot afford.
The estimated cost of units III and IV is USD 6.4 billion, of which USD 3.4 billion will be taken care of by Russian state credits.Rogozin has given an assurance that the reactors were safest in the world.
The visiting dignitary also asserted that it was important to understand the "liability and responsibility" of Indian and Russian governments in creating a favourable and stable investment climate as far mutual business was concerned.
"We should allow our business community to see the green light in order to begin active interaction and conclude major contracts......And so I would like to express the hope that we will be able to resolve the current difficult situation with the Russian investments in Titanium Products Private Ltd and Sistema Shyam TeleServices in India," he said.
Available at: http://www.deccanherald.com/content/285523/russia-unhappy-india-over-kudankulam.html
2. Gillard to Promote Uranium Sales in Visit to Power-Starved India
Jason Scott and Andrew MacAskil
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Julia Gillard will use her first visit to India as Australia’s prime minister to begin uranium- sale talks, looking to open up a new market after appetite for nuclear fuel waned in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster.
Gillard, who will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi in a three-day visit to New Delhi that begins today, will exploit an opening created when her party overturned a ban on uranium exports to India in December. She is aiming to tap increasing energy demand in the world’s second-most populous nation, which suffered widespread power blackouts this summer.
Exporting uranium to India will help Australian miners such as BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) and Rio Tinto Group-controlled Energy Resources of Australia Ltd. as falling commodity prices reduce revenues and a mining boom peaks. For India, building nuclear plants is one answer to address a power shortfall that curtails annual economic growth by as much as 1.2 percentage points.
“Any new market for uranium for Australian companies will be welcome with Germany and Japan phasing out nuclear energy post-Fukushima and demand for base metals off their highs,” said David Lennox, a resource analyst at Fat Prophets, a Sydney- based mining researcher and wealth management provider. “India has a large, growing population, an established economy and is already a big buyer of our coal.”
The price of uranium for immediate delivery, which soared to a record $136 a pound in 2007, declined to a two-year low last month and was trading at $45.75 on Oct. 8, according to Ux Consulting, a Roswell, Georgia-based uranium information provider. BHP and Paladin Energy Ltd. (PDN) have slowed or deferred development this year of some projects to produce the raw material in nuclear reactor fuel.
India’s government plans to spend about $175 billion over the next two decades as it seeks to curb power shortfalls crippling the economy. Power cuts are hurting industrial production amid an average 9 percent shortfall in peak power demand, according to the Central Electricity Authority.
Last year’s meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant and Indian protests over nuclear safety in the wake of the catastrophe haven’t deterred Singh from pushing ahead with plans to build more atomic power stations. The government aims to generate 8 percent of power from nuclear energy by 2030, up from 2.3 percent currently.
“Striking a deal on uranium exports is the big-ticket item that remains outstanding between the two countries,” said Uday Bhaskar, an adviser to New Delhi-based research group Society for Policy Studies. Getting supplies from Australia “would provide a lot of stability to India’s nuclear program,” he said.
Australia, the world’s third-biggest uranium supplier, previously banned sales to India because it wasn’t a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The South Asian nation has signed civil nuclear agreements with countries including the U.S., France and Russia after a three-decade ban on uranium supplies was lifted in September 2008 by the 46-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, which is charged with reducing proliferation by controlling the transfer of materials used to develop an atomic weapon.
Gillard’s government is expected to negotiate a treaty with India that replicates the conditions of the NPT, Australian Uranium Association Chief Executive Michael Angwin said in an Oct. 11 interview in Canberra. “Sales probably are still several years away,” he said.
Relations between the two countries were clouded in 2009 by a wave of attacks on Indian students studying in Melbourne, Australia’s second-biggest city, that resulted in a drop in applications for student visas.
Two-way goods and services trade totaled $21 billion in the year to June 30, 2011, led by sales of coal and gold, according to Australia government figures. India was Australia’s fourth- largest export market in the period.
Australia’s economy has been powered by Chinese demand for iron ore, coal and natural gas. With growth having slowed in the world’s second-biggest economy for six quarters, some mining projects in Australia are being delayed.
In August, BHP put approvals for about $68 billion of projects on hold, including the Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine, which Deutsche Bank estimated would cost $33 billion to build. Spot prices for iron ore, Australia’s biggest commodity export, are down 40 percent since reaching a record high of $191.90 a metric ton on Feb. 16 last year, according to The Steel Index Ltd.
Resources Minister Martin Ferguson last month said the global boom in commodity prices was over, increasing the importance of boosting exports into developing economies such as India.
“India, the world’s biggest democracy and one of the fastest growing major economies, stands in the front rank of Australia’s international partnerships and will be a key part of Australia’s future in the Asian Century,” Gillard said in an Oct. 11 statement.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-15/gillard-to-promote-uranium-sales-in-visit-to-power-starved-india.html
3. India, Lanka Work on Bilateral Civil Nuclear Cooperation
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India and Sri Lanka on Friday held bilateral civil nuclear cooperation discussions and the two sides recommitted themselves to using nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, and for the mutual benefit of the peoples’ of the two countries. Friday’s talk was the first round of discussions between New Delhi and Colombo on comprehensive civil nuclear cooperation.
The Indian delegation was led by Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, and included representatives from the Department of Atomic Energy of India. The Sri Lankan delegation was led by I. Ansar, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of Sri Lanka, and included representatives from the Atomic Energy Authority and the Ministry of Power and Energy of Sri Lanka.
As per their joint statement, it was agreed that the two sides would work towards a comprehensive Agreement on Bilateral Civil Nuclear Cooperation. Discussions included training of officials, nuclear safety and response to nuclear accidents. It was agreed that the next meeting would be held in Sri Lanka in the first half of 2013.
Earlier, under the IAEA’s Program of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT), India had signed tripartite Agreements with IAEA, Sri Lanka and Namibia to donate its indigenously developed Cobalt teletherapy machine (Bhabhatron II) to these two countries as a step towards affordable treatment of cancer.
Available at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/news-online/item/11473-india-lanka-work-on-bilateral-civil-nuclear-cooperation.html
4. US to Continue Talks with Russia on Nunn-Lugar Program
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The United States is interested in continuing talks with Russia on a US-funded Russian armaments disposal program, known as the Nunn-Lugar program, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Thursday.
“We, as a government, greatly value the ongoing Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. We believe there is a lot of future work for the U.S. and Russia to do together in the CTR space, including cooperation that we do in this area with third countries,” Nuland told a daily press briefing.
“It has to be done on an appropriate legal basis,” she said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the US proposals on extending the decades-old bilateral program aimed at dismantling weapons of mass destruction are out of synch with Moscow’s concept of cooperation in that area.
“We have received an American proposal on extending the 1992 Agreement, which is due to expire in June 2013,” ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said, referring to the Nunn-Lugar Agreement.
“Our American partners know that their proposal is at odds with our ideas about the forms and basis for building further cooperation in that area.” “A more modern legal framework” is needed for such interaction, he added.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Russian daily Kommersant quoted sources in the US State Department as saying Russia is no longer interested in the Nunn-Lugar program - also known as the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (CTR) - which dates back to the early 1990s and helped decommission scores of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Nuland also said on Thursday: “The current agreement that we have for Nunn-Lugar cooperation expires in June of 2013. So in anticipation of that, we began talking to the Russian side back in July of this year about updating that agreement.”
“And we are continuing to have those conversations. I think you probably saw statements out of the Russian Foreign Ministry yesterday clarifying that we are still in talks, in fact, and making clear that this is distinct and separate from the Russian decision to stop the AID program, which was different,” she said.
The move is the latest in Moscow’s review of its relationship with Washington, and comes after Russia stopped the United States Agency for International Development from working in the country earlier this month.
It also follows comments last week by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that the “reset” policy between Russia and the United States “cannot last forever.”
The CTR program began in 1991, and was extended twice - in 1999 and 2006. The current terms expires in 2013. The United States has reportedly spent an estimated $8 billion on CTR programs.
The program included measures to increase safety at nuclear plants in the former Soviet Union and generating alternative work for former institutes and production facilities which had been involved in making weapons of mass destruction, the CTR website says.
Meanwhile, deputy White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Thursday: “The President believes that the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program is a valuable program and has been beneficial for United States national security. There is certainly more work to be done in that program and we’re going to engage in that effort.”
“The President has a long record on these issues and we found the Russians to be good partners on these issues. Senator [Richard] Lugar himself commented recently… that in talking with his counterparts in Russia, it was his understanding that the Russians didn’t want to actually end the program, but rather that after 20 years of this program being in place, they wanted to update the program,” Earnest said.
“And that’s certainly something that we will work with him to do,” he said.
Available at: http://en.ria.ru/mlitary_news/20121012/176565808.html
1. US Navy Cruiser Collides with Nuclear Submarine
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The Pentagon said it was investigating why the collision happened on Saturday.
The US Fleet Forces Command said in a news release that the submarine USS Montpelier and the Aegis cruiser USS San Jacinto collided at about 3:30pm during routine operations. No one was injured, and the extent of any damage to the vessels was not clear Saturday evening, said Lt. Commander Brian Badura of the Fleet Forces Command.
"We have had circumstances where Navy vessels have collided at sea in the past, but they're fairly rare as to how often they do take place," Lt Commander Badurasaid.
Navy officials said the collision was under investigation, but declined to offer specifics on what happens next or on where the incident took place.
"If we do have an incident that does take place, there are folks that swing into action ... to help us make a better, more conclusive explanation of exactly what happened," Badura said.
The news release said "overall damage to both ships is being evaluated," and that the sub's propulsion plant was "unaffected by the collision."
Both Navy ships are based at Norfolk, Virginia, and are operating on their own power.
Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9608001/US-Navy-cruiser-collides-with-nuclear-submarine.html
2. Fukushima Operator Must Learn From Mistakes, New Adviser Says
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Tokyo Electric Power Co must adopt measures used in other Japanese industries to reform after acknowledging that it failed to anticipate and tackle the Fukushima disaster, the utility's newly installed outside adviser said on Saturday.
Tokyo Electric, also known as Tepco, acknowledged for the first time on Friday that it failed in its response to the radiation crisis in March 2011 when three reactors melted down at its Fukushima Daiichi plant after it was hit by an earthquake and tsunami.
Dale Klein, appointed last week to head a panel of outside specialists overseeing the company's reforms, said in an interview that Tepco could look to other Japanese companies.
"We had some open and frank discussions with our committee and with the Tepco management," Klein, a former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told Reuters.
Klein said Japan "has demonstrated excellence in manufacturing. In that process any worker can stop the process, if he believes there is a defect. Tepco needs to do the same thing with their nuclear safety culture".
Klein, associate vice chancellor for research at the University of Texas, said the latest findings "will be a strong wake-up call for Tepco.
"There is a tendency among companies and individuals when there first is a problem of denial. So you try to justify your actions to either cover up, save face, whatever you want to call it," he said. "Fukushima Daiichi cannot be covered up."
An inquiry ordered by Japan's parliament concluded in July that the disaster was the result of "collusion" between Tepco, the government and regulators.
In Tepco's draft plan for reform issued on Friday, the company said it could have undertaken better preparations, reversing its previous stand that the disaster was unavoidable because of the unexpected force of the tsunami.
The draft also said the company had feared that implementing accident measures "would exacerbate ... public anxiety and add momentum to anti-nuclear movements".
In future, the company said, Tepco had to "have the courage and capability to share problems with the siting community and the public".
All 50 working nuclear reactors in Japan were shut down for safety checks after the disaster.
The government's decision this year to restart two units to preclude possible summer power cuts galvanised the country's anti-nuclear movement, prompting mass demonstrations.
A new government energy policy, taking account of that sentiment, seeks to end reliance on nuclear power, though ministers are vague on setting any deadlines.
Klein said the sight of Fukushima, where three reactor buildings were badly damaged in the worst civil nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986, was "devastating".
"When you look at the site, it is very depressing. The damage is stunning. The amount of forces that were released."
Recorded radiation levels were as high as 1,000 microsieverts an hour on Friday when a Reuters journalist visited the site as part of a media tour. Typical background radiation levels are usually 2.4 microsieverts per year, according to the World Nuclear Association.
Workers were seen putting together water filtration systems and shifting equipment near the damaged reactors, two of which remain capped by twisted steel and damaged concrete. A third damaged reactor building is covered up by a giant tarpaulin.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/13/japan-nuclear-idUSL3E8LD0MN20121013
3. EDF Sees More Maintenance Ahead at Nuclear Plants
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French electricity giant EDF will have to undertake more work to maintain its ageing nuclear reactors in the next few years, a senior executive at the state-owned utility said on Friday.
France, the world's most nuclear-reliant nation, has been grappling with heavy maintenance work and delayed restarts at its reactors for the past six months.
"The fleet's average age is 26 years. A lot of once-a-decade reviews are coming due. We are going to face a denser period of maintenance," Herve Machenaud, group executive director in charge of production and engineering at EDF, told Reuters.
"It is true for 2013, 2014, and even more true for 2015. And this until 2020," he said.
France must invest billions of euros to improve the safety systems of its nuclear facilities so they can withstand the kind of extreme shocks that triggered the Fukushima nuclear accident, French nuclear watchdog ASN said in January.
This has an impact on the availability of its reactors, which meet three-quarters of electricity consumption.
Online French nuclear power capacity stood at just 75 percent on Friday, much lower than the 95 percent of last February.
Should that level fail to pick up ahead of the winter's power consumption peak, this could create a potential supply crisis and spark local blackouts in the event of a severe cold spell, as experienced last winter.
EDF's Machenaud struck a confident note on Friday, however.
"We are ready. There are no worries. Only two plants will be under maintenance in January," he said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/12/france-edf-idUSL5E8LCP2T20121012
4. Russian Defense Ministry Says it Will Raise Two Sunken Nuclear Subs – Observers Skeptical it Will Happen Soon, Charles Digges
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The Russian Ministry of Defense says it is planning to raise and scrap two sunken nuclear submarines from the depths of the Barents and Kara Seas in an effort to stem radioactive contamination from the vessels, whose reactors are both loaded with spent nuclear fuel, Izvestia newspaper reported.
The ministry said it will announce an international tender, which may include companies from the France, the Netherlands, South Korea and United States, as the Russian Navy does not have the necessary equipment to carry out deep-sea salvage operations, Izvestia said, citing a military source that the paper did not name.
The source reported that the project to lift the two submarines, the K-27 and the K-159, is a part of a revised government draft for strategic development of Russia’s Arctic zone.
“A broad range of measures for cleaning Arctic waters of pollution is specified [in the draft],” the source told Izvestia. “In addition to the sunken submarines, particular attention is given to removal of dangerous waste left behind after the military units on Franz Josef Land, New Siberian Islands and Bely Island,” said the source.
Indeed, an accumulation of reports from Russia to the Norwegian Radiation Safety Authority (NRPA) reveal the Soviet and Russian Navies littered the Kara Sea with all manner of nuclear and radioactive waste over a period of decades, stopping in the early 1990s.
According to NRPA, the catalogue of waste in the Kara Sea includes 19 ships containing radioactive waste; 14 nuclear reactors, including five that still contain spent nuclear fuel; 735 other pieces of radioactively contaminated heavy machinery; 17,000 containers of radioactive waste,
Given the number of years the Russian government has been speaking of lifting these submarines for appropriate scrapping, however, leaves room for skepticism that renewed promises will reach fruition.
Igor Kudrik, a Bellona expert on the Russia Navy and nuclear waste noted that it was the responsibility of Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom to deal with raising the submarines, and characterized the Defense Ministry’s involvement with the project as “very strange.”
“If the Defense Ministry is in charge, we fear for transparency of the project. And, of course what help can be marshaled remains to be seen,” he said. “No agreements or governmental decisions are in place as of today that authorities will follow through on the pledge.”
The K-27 was recently the subject of a Russia-Norwegian joint expedition to determine whether radioactive contamination around the vessel has increased since it was last measured in 2000. The preliminary findings released late last month indicated it had not.
But dangers of an uncontrolled chain reaction and nuclear explosion in the vessels two liquid metal cooled reactors remains a concern to Norwegian and Russian authorities, both of whom have said that lifting the K-27 should be a priority.
The K-27 was intentionally sunk by the Russian Navy in 1981 after suffering a radiation accident in 1968 that killed nine sailors. It was scuttled in Stepovogo Bay in 50 meters of water near the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, a former – and perhaps future – atomic bomb testing range.
The K-159 was taken out of service in 1989, and is considered one of the most radioactively dangerous objects on the bottom of the Arctic seas, though Russian authorities have repeatedly said the vessel is not leaking.
Its sinking posed more of an embarrassment to the Russian Navy when it was swamped with 800 kilograms of nuclear fuel in its two pressurized water reactors in August 2003 while being towed from Gremikha, a former naval base, to the Polyarny shipyard, where it was to be dismantled.
The sinking killed nine sailors, who where aboard the rusted-out hulk of the sub to plug leaks, constituting the worst Russian Navel disaster since the sinking of the Kursk during naval excersises in August 2000, killing all 118 sailors aboard.
Two Dutch companies, Mammoet and Smit International – who are said by the Izvestia source to be under consideration for the K-27 and K-159tenders – were contracted by the Russian government and salvaged the Kursk in 2001.
The K-159 and the tugboat hauling it ran into heavy weather, sinking it in 185 meters of water and prompting an overhaul of the Russian Navy’s practice of towing derelict subs.
It also posed uncomfortable questions to Norway, which had helped finance the dismantling of decommission Russian submarines using the same unsafe towing methods.
Immediately after the K-159’s sinking, then deputy head of the Central Headquarters of Russia Naval Command, Viktor Kravchuk, issued a promise that the vessel would be salvaged.
That pledge was followed by several more years of promises from the Navy that that vessel would be raised, none of which ever materialized. The last serious promise to salvage it came from then-chief environmental safety officer for the Russian Navy, Alevtin Yunak, in 2008. The issue laid low until the Defense Ministry made yesterday’s announcement.
In November, the K-27 issue will be discussed at an international conference on nuclear safety in Moscow, arranged by Norway, Sweden and Russia, the Barents Observer news portal based in Kirkenes, Norway reported.
However, the wreck of another sunken submarine, the Komsomolets, will most likely forever remain at the site where it sank in a 1989 accident, as a salvage operation would be too costly and dangerous, Izvestia said.
The K-278 Komsomolets nuclear submarine sank in the Norwegian Sea on April 7, 1989, south of Bear Island. The submarine sank with its active reactor and two nuclear warheads on board, and lies at a depth of 1,685 meters.
Available at: http://www.bellona.org/articles/articles_2012/defence_ministry_to_lift_sunken_subs
5. Japan's New Nuclear Safety Standards to Include Steps Against Terrorist Acts
The Japan Times
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The Nuclear Regulation Authority said Wednesday it plans to ask utilities to take measures to protect the nation's atomic power plants against catastrophic damage from terrorist attacks as it moves to craft new safety standards for reactors.
Because of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster that started last year, the government plans to legally require utilities to take steps to prevent both accidents that could result in serious damage to reactor cores and the consequent massive radioactive fallout.
The agency, which was inaugurated last month, is expected to outline the new safety standards by March 31 and finalize them by July.
In addition to terrorist attacks, the authority also agreed to consider situations in which nuclear facilities are hit by natural phenomena greater than they are designed to withstand.
During a meeting of the five members of the authority, Kenzo Oshima, former ambassador to the United Nations, said there is a need to accelerate the compilation of safety standards.
"Japan has lagged behind internationally in severe accident measures," he said. "We must create standards that broadly cover situations such as natural phenomena, terrorist acts, and that go ahead (of other countries)."
Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121011b5.html
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