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Nuclear News - 10/18/2012
PGS Nuclear News, October 18, 2012
Compiled By: Pia Ulrich

A.  Iran
    1. Russia Says November Iran Nuclear Talks 'Realistic', AFP (10/18/2012)
    2. U.N. Nuclear Chief Rejects Iran "Saboteurs" Accusation, Maria Golovnina, Reuters (10/17/2012)
    3. Iran Further Expanding Enrichment Capacity - Diplomats, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (10/17/2012)
B.  North Korea
    1. S. Korea, U.S., Japan Agree to Close Cooperation on N. Korean Nuclear Issues, Yonhap News Agency (10/17/2012)
C.  Nuclear Energy
    1. China Tacitly Permits Resumption of New N plants' Construction, The Economic Times (10/18/2012)
    2. Romania Asks Companies to Reconsider Nuclear Plan, Reuters (10/17/2012)
D.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Australia, India Take First Steps on Nuclear Deal, Ben Sheppard, AFP (10/17/2012)
    2. IAEA to Conduct Nuclear Infrastructure Mission to SA, Engineering News (10/17/2012)
    3. UAE's Nuclear Liability Law, World Nuclear News (10/16/2012)
E.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. Japan Tightening Nuclear Safety Rules-Chief Regulator, Risa Maeda, Reuters (10/18/2012)
    2. Kaspersky Plans Software for Securing Nuclear Plants, Matt Smith and Daniel Fineren, Reuters (10/17/2012)
    3. Nuclear Trafficking Getting More Professional: IAEA Chief, Maria Golovnina, Reuters (10/17/2012)
    4. China Sets Nuclear Security, Radioactive Contamination Targets, Xinhua News Agency (10/16/2012)
    5. Sri Lanka to Institute a Nuclear Disaster Management Action Plan, Colombo Page (10/15/2012)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. Merkel Defends Costly Switch Out of Nuclear Power, Juergen Baetz, Bloomberg Businessweek (10/16/2012)

A.  Iran

Russia Says November Iran Nuclear Talks 'Realistic'
(for personal use only)

Russia said Thursday it was "realistic" to hold direct talks next month between Iran's chief negotiator and six-nation representative Catherine Ashton over the Islamic republic's nuclear drive.

"It would be realistic to talk about organising one in November," Interfax quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying.

He refused to speculate where the meeting might be organised, but ruled out the Russian capital.
"In either case, it will not be Moscow," he was quoted as saying by Interfax.

Three rounds of direct negotiations and a lower-level meeting of experts have failed to produce much progress over transparency in an Iranian nuclear programme that the West suspects is a front for developing nuclear weapons.

Tehran denies the charge and insists on world recognition of its right to enrich uranium -- something that is excluded by four rounds of UN sanction over its refusal to cooperate with nuclear agency inspectors.

The last round of direct talks in Moscow in June included mentions of a new meeting possibly being held in a neutral venue such as the Kazakh capital Astana or Beijing.

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Iran Further Expanding Enrichment Capacity - Diplomats
Fredrik Dahl
(for personal use only)

Iran is believed to be further increasing its uranium enrichment capacity at its Fordow plant buried deep underground, Western diplomats say, in another sign of Tehran defying international demands to curb its disputed nuclear programme.

But they said the Islamic Republic did not yet appear to have started up the newly-installed centrifuges to boost production of material which Iran says is for reactor fuel but which can also have military uses if processed further.

"Iran continues to build up enrichment capacity," one Western official said.

A diplomat accredited to the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said: "We think that they have continued installing centrifuges at Fordow. We think that their pace has continued the same as it was, which was pretty rapid."

If confirmed in the next IAEA report on Iran's atomic activities, expected in mid-November, it would suggest Iran is steadily moving towards completing instalment of centrifuges at the Fordow subterranean centrifuge site.

"I would think they are going fast enough that they are near complete," the Vienna-based diplomat said, in comments echoed by another envoy.

There was no immediate comment from Iran or the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear agency based in the Austrian capital.

Fordow - which Tehran only disclosed the existence of in 2009 after learning that Western spy services had detected it - is of particular concern for the United States and its allies as Iran uses it for its higher-grade enrichment.

Iran says it needs uranium refined to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, compared with the level of up to 5 percent it produces at its main enrichment facility at Natanz, to make fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran.

But it also takes Iran a significant technical step closer to the 90 percent concentration needed for bombs, explaining the West's growing concern as the Islamic state's stockpile of the material keeps growing.

A U.S.-based think-tank this month said Iran would currently need at least two to four months to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear bomb, and additional time to make the device itself.

Last week, Iranian officials said Tehran would negotiate on halting higher-grade enrichment if given fuel for the research reactor, in a possible attempt to show flexibility in stalled nuclear talks with world powers.

The IAEA said in its last report on Iran in late August that the country had doubled the number of centrifuges to 2,140 at Fordow in the previous three months. More than 600 remained to be installed, the report showed.

Since then, diplomats said they thought Iran had put in place more centrifuges at the site near the holy Shi'ite Muslim city of Qom, about 130 km (80 miles) from Tehran and buried deep under soil and rock for protection against any attack.

"They continue sort of unabated," one envoy said.

But they said Iran was still operating the same number of machines as it had been since early this year, nearly 700 centrifuges.

It was not clear when the new equipment would be launched or whether Iran was holding back for technical or political reasons.

Any move by Iran to increase the number of working centrifuges - and the production rate - would draw swift condemnation from its foes in the West and Israel and may further complicate diplomacy aimed at resolving the dispute.

Iran says its nuclear programme is a peaceful project to generate electricity but its refusal to limit the work and lack of transparency with U.N. inspectors have been met with increasingly tough Western sanctions targeting its oil exports.

European Union governments imposed sanctions on Tuesday against major Iranian state companies in the oil and gas industry, and strengthened restrictions on the central bank, cranking up financial pressure on Tehran.

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U.N. Nuclear Chief Rejects Iran "Saboteurs" Accusation
Maria Golovnina
(for personal use only)

The U.N. nuclear chief said on Wednesday that Iran's allegation his agency may have been infiltrated by saboteurs was baseless and voiced concern about "intensive activities" at the Parchin military installation that his inspectors want to examine.

Years of diplomacy and sanctions have failed to resolve a stand-off between the West and Iran over its nuclear activity, raising fears of last-resort Israeli military action and a new Middle East war destabilizing to the global economy.

Yukiya Amano, who is seeking to unblock a long-stalled investigation into suspected nuclear weapons research in the Islamic state, also said he hoped for a new high-level meeting with Tehran soon but no date had yet been set.

His agency's relations with Iran have become testy in recent months. Iran's atomic energy chief said in Vienna last month that the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency may have been infiltrated by "terrorists and saboteurs".

Western diplomats have dismissed the Iranian allegations against the IAEA as a maneuver to divert attention from Tehran's stonewalling of its inquiry.

"Sometimes it is not useful to dignify these claims by providing an official answer," Amano said in London when asked about the saboteur allegation - apparently based on Iranian perceptions that inspectors pass on their findings to Western intelligence agencies.

But, the veteran Japanese diplomat said, "this is baseless ... We are not involved in these activities."

His comments about Parchin will likely reinforce suspicions among Western diplomats that Iran is still trying to remove any evidence of illicit nuclear-related activity at the site southeast of the capital Tehran.

Asked whether Iran was continuing to dismantle the facility, which U.N. inspectors can now only monitor via satellite imagery, Amano told Reuters during a visit to London: "Yes."

Addressing London's Chatham House think-tank, he later said: "They are undertaking quite intensive activities at Parchin ... We have identified 12 areas where we need clarification."

Iran has dismissed allegations of a cover-up aired about Parchin, which it says is a conventional military facility.

The U.N. nuclear agency believes Iran, possibly a decade ago, may have carried out explosives tests relevant for nuclear weapons development in a steel chamber at Parchin.

In Vienna, a Western diplomat told Reuters the suspected clean-up work at Parchin "hasn't abated".

Amano said in June that satellite images indicated that buildings were being demolished and soil removed at Parchin.

The IAEA, a Vienna-based U.N. agency tasked with preventing the spread of nuclear arms in the world, is trying to revive its bomb research investigation that has made no substantive headway for four years because of Iranian non-cooperation.

Amano said the IAEA was committed to dialogue with the Islamic Republic, which says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and only aimed at producing electricity.

"We don't have a specific date yet (for new talks)," he told Reuters in London. "We have offered that we are willing to meet with them in the very near future ... That (will) be a high-level meeting and I hope we can have a meeting quite soon."

A senior IAEA team has held a series of meetings with Iran since January, but they have yet to yield concrete results. The last round of discussions took place in August.

Amano, who himself traveled to Tehran in May for talks that ultimately proved fruitless, said Iran "generally speaking" was positive about dialogue with the U.N. agency.

Another Western diplomat in Vienna said the IAEA had "really been pushing Iran to set a date" for a new meeting, but that Tehran had so far declined to do so. "The delay is coming from the Iranian side," the envoy said.

Iran denies Western accusations that it is seeking to develop the capability to make nuclear bombs. But its refusal to curb activity that can have both civilian and military purposes has drawn increasingly tough Western sanctions.

European Union governments imposed sanctions on Tuesday against major Iranian state companies in the oil and gas industry, and strengthened restrictions on the central bank, cranking up financial pressure on Tehran.

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B.  North Korea

S. Korea, U.S., Japan Agree to Close Cooperation on N. Korean Nuclear Issues
Yonhap News Agency
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Nuclear envoys from South Korea, the United States and Japan agreed on Wednesday to closely cooperate on North Korean nuclear issues, foreign ministry officials here said.

Lim Sung-nam, Seoul's chief envoy to the six-party talks on ending the North's nuclear weapons program, sat down for talks with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts, Glyn Davies and Shinsuke Sugiyama in Tokyo, the officials said.

"During the meeting, the three countries reaffirmed the importance of resolving the North's nuclear issues via the six-party talks, of maintaining stability on the Korean Peninsula ahead of the presidential elections in South Korea and the U.S., and of reminding ourselves of constructive roles by China and Russia to denuclearize the North," Lim told reporters after the meeting.

The six-party talks, which involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan, have been dormant since late 2008.

Based upon the results of the trilateral high-level meeting last month, the envoys jointly assessed the current situation of the Korean Peninsula including North Korea's nuclear and other issues, according to Seoul officials.

In September, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba met on the sidelines of a United Nations General Assembly session in New York, and shared notes on the assessment of developments in North Korea and agreed to maintain cooperation on the matter, the department said.

The three-way talks among the envoys came amid reports of progress in the North's light-water reactor project that experts say may help expand its nuclear weapons capacity.

Last month, Lim visited Beijing and held talks with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei, through which the two sides agreed to keep a "close watch" on progress in Pyongyang's light-water atomic reactor project, according to Seoul officials.

South Korea is concerned that the North's reactor under construction at its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon might be a cover to stockpile enriched uranium, a fissile material used to make bombs, though Pyongyang claims it is for producing electricity.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has said North Korea has made "significant" progress in the light-water reactor project. Citing satellite imagery, the U.N. said the North has put a dome over the facility.

Experts say the meeting is, in some part, intended to reaffirm close relations among the three key players in terms of North Korean matters as tension has run high between Seoul and Tokyo over Japan's renewed claim to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo in recent months.

Seoul's envoy Lim said neither he nor Sugiyama mentioned the territorial issue during the meeting, adding "Today's meeting was solely devoted to North Korean issues."

After the trilateral talks in Tokyo, the U.S. envoy will make a three-day visit to South Korea from Oct. 18 as part of his regional trip to Northeast Asia, Seoul's foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young told reporters.

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C.  Nuclear Energy

China Tacitly Permits Resumption of New N plants' Construction
The Economic Times
(for personal use only)

The Chinese government has tacitly begun granting permissions for the resumption of construction of several new nuclear power plants that were halted after the Fukoshima disaster in Japan, a report in the official media here said.

The Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection has been giving environmental clearance to nuclear facilities extensively since September this year, state-run Global Times reported today.

The clearances included granting of certificates to some 778 people to work at nuclear facilities after passing nuclear safety examinations, it said.

Han Xiaoping, chief information officer of energy research portal, told the daily that the information can be interpreted as a sign that nuclear programmes will be resumed in China, after being stalled in the aftermath of the Fukushima crisis in 2011.

The stock price of many nuclear-related companies saw a rise today.

According to the National Energy Administration, China has 15 nuclear reactors in operation with 26 more reactors under construction.

"There is a consensus in China that we should not give up on nuclear power," Gao Shixian, assistant director of the energy research institute under the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planning agency, told the newspaper.

Gao said China has only 15 reactors that are capable of producing a little over 10 million kilowatts of power.

"That volume accounts for only one per cent of China's annual energy production, which is incomparable to the nuclear power level in countries like France, Japan or Germany," Gao said.

Despite the decline in Europe and America, China plans to increase the volume of its nuclear power to 40 million kilowatts by 2015 and aims to double that number by 2020.

"China has great demand for energy, partly because it has the largest population in the world, and partly because of its growing economy," Gui Liming, a professor specialising in nuclear safety at Tsinghua University said.

"China does not have the capital to phase out nuclear plants at this moment," Gui said, citing the example of Germany, which turned to its neighbour France to buy energy after shutting down half its nuclear reactors last year.

Gui said if the government is able to keep the risk to a minimum level, which would be possible with improving technology, nuclear power plants may better serve the needs.

The nuclear safety plan published on Tuesday said all 15 reactors in China have been monitored under strict safety protocols and no accident above level two, defined as a failure of safety measures but without actual consequences, has ever occurred.

He Zuoxiu, a leading theoretical physicist who worked on China's first nuclear bomb, said that the "safety coefficient" provided by regulatory commissions are largely theoretical.

"If there is one thing we can learn from the Fukushima crisis, it is that you will never know where the problem comes from.

"We want to be 'absolutely' safe when dealing with nuclear facilities, and that's extremely difficult to achieve," he said.

The Ministry also issued a new nuclear safety approval to a group of key projects, including nuclear waste treatment plants and remodelling projects to improve the safety level of existing nuclear facilities which costs about USD 12.76 billion.

The plan also indicated that the mixed models of nuclear reactors imported from different countries complicated the safety protocols and emergency procedures and urged different nuclear facilities to pay more attention to safety regulations.

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Romania Asks Companies to Reconsider Nuclear Plan
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Romania has asked four of Europe's largest power companies to reconsider a plan to build two nuclear reactors after it failed to find other investors, the Eastern European nation's deputy economy minister said on Wednesday.

Romania, which must replace a third of its plants by 2020, needs new power generation or faces future supply shortages and rising import costs.

However, many power companies have been scaling back investment in central and eastern Europe in light of the euro zone debt crisis and with a renewed focus on wind and solar capacity.

"Last week there was a meeting and... we decided to retry attracting investors because the reasons why they withdrew are no longer current," deputy Economy Minister Rodin Traicu was quoted as saying by state news agency Agerpres."

"We are waiting for an answer."

French GDF Suez, Spanish Iberdrola, Germany's RWE and Czech CEZ all withdrew from the project over the past two years, citing economic and market uncertainties.

Left with only Italy's Enel and a local unit of ArcelorMittal, Romania looked for new investors, but no offers were made before its own mid-September deadline.

Without new investors, the project will probably remain on hold and Romania would have to find other ways to generate power.

Asked on Tuesday whether the government can build the reactors alone, Prime Minister Victor Ponta said: "No. By itself, never. We are talking about several billion euros which can only come from a partnership with a private investor."

Romania already has two 706 megawatt reactors at Cernavoda on the Danube, accounting for a fifth of its power output.

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D.  Nuclear Cooperation

Australia, India Take First Steps on Nuclear Deal
Ben Sheppard
(for personal use only)

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday agreed to open negotiations to export uranium nuclear fuel to energy-hungry India after meeting her counterpart Manmohan Singh in New Delhi.

The deal, which will provide a boost for India's civilian nuclear ambitions, comes after Australia reversed its policy of refusing to sell uranium to India as it has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"Prime Minister Manmohan Singh welcomed the decision of the Australian government on uranium sales to India, noting that nuclear energy will play an important role in India's future energy needs," a joint statement said.

"India and Australia (will) commence negotiations on a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement which, for Australia, is a prerequisite for uranium sales to other countries," it added.

Gillard overcame opposition within her own Labor party to reverse the ban last year, arguing that the deal was necessary to improve ties with one of Asia's biggest economies.

The two countries will now kick off formal discussions, but have warned that negotiations are likely to last up to two years.

New Delhi -- backed by the US -- won a special exemption in 2008 from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which governs global nuclear trade, to allow it to buy reactors and fuel from overseas.

India, which has fractious relations with its nuclear-armed neighbour Pakistan, had been subject to a global embargo since 1974 when it first conducted a nuclear weapons test.

Singh hailed Wednesday's announcement as recognition of India's "record and credentials" on civil nuclear power and expressed his appreciation to Australia.

Gillard said the proposed sale of uranium was "personally important" to her as she had led the campaign for a change in Australian policy -- attracting fierce criticism from some environmentalists and anti-nuclear groups.

Gillard earlier said that negotiations would guarantee that the uranium would be used only for peaceful purposes and in safe conditions, and that the deal would be overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

New Delhi has sought to forge close ties with a host of countries with deposits of uranium, including Mongolia, Namibia and Tajikistan alongside Kazakhstan and Canada.

India is heavily dependent on coal and produces less than three percent of its energy from its existing atomic plants. The government hopes to raise the figure to 25 percent by 2050.

Although Australia does not use nuclear power itself, it is the world's third-ranking uranium producer and holds an estimated 23 percent of the world's reserves.

It already ships the nuclear fuel to China, Japan, Taiwan and the United States.

Countries are normally required to have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and open their reactors to international scrutiny before they can buy atomic technology and uranium.

On Wednesday morning, Gillard attracted widespread press attention when she fell to the ground in front of TV cameras after the heel of her shoe became stuck in grass at a memorial park to Mahatma Gandhi.

She was unhurt and laughed off the incident.

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IAEA to Conduct Nuclear Infrastructure Mission to SA
Engineering News
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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will conduct an integrated nuclear infrastructure review (INIR) mission to South Africa during February next year, the Department of Energy (DoE) confirmed on Wednesday.

The review would follow a domestic self-evaluation report conducted under the aegis of the National Nuclear Energy Executive Coordination Committee (NNEECC), led by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

This internal evaluations was pursued after the publication of the Integrated Resource Plan for electricity, which indicated that South Africa would build 9 600 MW of new nuclear energy capacity by 2030.

The INIR would seek to offer an objective review in terms of 19 milestones outlined by the IAEA.

In preparation for the mission, the DoE reported that an IAEA team conducted a three-day pre-mission workshop with stakeholders from October 15 to 17.

During the workshop comments were made on the NNEECC self-evaluation report, and the scope, work plan and logistical arrangements were defined for the upcoming mission.

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UAE's Nuclear Liability Law
World Nuclear News
(for personal use only)

Civil liability for damages from any nuclear accident in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will lie solely with the operator of the nuclear facility concerned, under a newly announced law on nuclear liability drafted in line with international standards.

The law regulates the provisions and determines the scope of civil liability and compensation in the event of a nuclear accident in the country, which embarked on the construction of its first nuclear power plant earlier this year. As well as determining that nuclear facility operators are solely and exclusively liable for damages arising from a nuclear accident, whether or not the operator is at fault, it also sets a limit on the operator's liability of 450 million Special Drawing Rights (SDR, an international currency unit used by the International Monetary Fund), equivalent to roughly 2.5 billion UAE dirhams or $694 million. The operator is therefore required to maintain insurance or other financial security of up to SDR 450.

Because nuclear accidents can have consequences that cross national borders, national laws are supplemented by a number of international conventions to form an international nuclear liability regime. Operator liability is normally covered by insurance and is limited under terms of the national legislation and international conventions. This means that the state can accept responsibility as insurer of last resort, as in all other aspects of industrial society. Chief amongst the international conventions governing the international nuclear regulatory regime is the IAEA's Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, amended in 1997, which the UAE formally ratified earlier this year.

The UAE law was drafted in consultation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and reviewed by the IAEA's legal teams to ensure that it is consistent with the agency's guidance and relevant international obligations. The UAE's Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) is to be the competent authority responsible for implementing the law.

The legislation was announced by the UAE's permanent representative to the IAEA, Hamad al Kaabi, who described it as a "step forward" for the development of a solid regulatory framework for the UAE's nuclear energy program. "This regime provides a clear and predictable process for the public and industry to deal with compensation for damages that may result from nuclear incidents," he said.

The UAE's first nuclear power plant is being built by the Korea Electric Power Company (Kepco) at Barakah for the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec), and is scheduled to enter service in 2017.

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E.  Nuclear Safety & Security

Japan Tightening Nuclear Safety Rules-Chief Regulator
Risa Maeda
(for personal use only)

Japan's new nuclear regulator will impose tighter safety standards for atomic plants, taking account of geological data in the earthquake-prone country, its head said on Thursday.

Shuichi Tanaka, in an interview, also said his new body would have the authority to restart reactors idled since last year's Fukushima disaster once new safety standards were in place and met. Restarting such units is a key point in reducing the import bill for fossil fuels to produce electricity.

Tanaka, head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), said previous standards would prove irrelevant if a plant was struck by an earthquake or tsunami stronger than anticipated. The March 2011 calamity that wrecked the Fukushima station had highlighted the need to take full account of the latest geological data.

"The existing safety standards fall short of international levels," Tanaka said, adding they in particular lacked severe accident management and disaster prevention measures.

"We've aimed to make new ones comparable internationally and also come up with good ones taking into account Japan's geological characteristics."

Tanaka said utilities had pointed to "stress tests" conducted since the disaster which they said showed a reactor could withstand an external force, for example, triple its designed capacity.

"But our argument is: what if there were an external force five times as much?"

The NRA started operations last month, replacing two regulators that had been widely criticized for being too close to the industry they were supposed to monitor, contributing to the catastrophe and proving inept in tackling it.

The operator of the Fukushima plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) acknowledged for the first time last week that it had failed to anticipate and deal with the disaster, in which three reactors suffered meltdowns.

The new safety standards are to be in place by next July and Tanaka has promised never to allow a repeat of Fukushima.

Speaking amid tight security in his city-centre office, he said the authority would be able to give the green light to restarts of reactors, though it had only limited power to order a shutdown of units already in operation.

All 50 reactors in Japan were shut down after the disaster. Two were restarted earlier this year at the Ohi power station on Japan's northwestern coast on orders of the prime minister and three senior cabinet colleagues despite warnings by some geologists of dangerous fault lines running beneath the plant.

Bringing eight reactors on line from the current two would save about 240 billion yen ($3 billion) in fuel costs by power utilities in the year to next March, according to an estimate by Institute of Energy Economics of Japan.

"So far, we understand the Ohi plant is not exposed to any imminent danger," Tanaka said. "But the more we move on, the more cases we will clarify which do not meet (the new standards). Then, we'll order utilities to make changes necessary to comply."

NRA-appointed experts will visit Ohi next month, including one specialist who has warned of dangers with the site.

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Kaspersky Plans Software for Securing Nuclear Plants
Matt Smith and Daniel Fineren
(for personal use only)

Russian anti-virus software company Kaspersky Lab is developing a secure operating system to run computers inside nuclear power plants and other vital infrastructure and industrial plants, its founder and CEO said on Tuesday.

Eugene Kaspersky, the Russian computer scientist turned multi-millionaire cyber security expert, told reporters at a company news conference in Dubai the system was at the prototype stage, with his Moscow-based company in talks with government institutions about installing the new operating system. He declined to identify any, saying the talks were confidential.

Energy and water plants, factories and transportation systems are typically run with SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems that are accessible via conventional computer networks, making them vulnerable to hackers, Kaspersky said.

SCADA software is sometimes left unaltered for decades, which means that it does not get updates to protect against security bugs as they are discovered.

"It's not possible to design SCADA in a secure way, so the most obvious solution is to have a secure envelope which monitors what's going on within SCADA," Kaspersky told Reuters after announcing the project.

"Engineers travel with laptops, USBs, so even if the system is disconnected from the Internet there is traffic."

Computer hacking was once seen as the preserve of rogue programmers working alone or in small groups.

These usually targeted company websites and caused little long-term damage, but the rise of so-called "hactivist" collectives as well as suspected state-sponsored cyber attacks has shifted the threat towards government-run institutions energy, transport and telecommunications networks. Many such plants use firewalls designed to protect SCADA systems from being infiltrated by malicious bugs. But Kaspersky said he was developing an entire security-focused operating system to beef up their security further.

Some 30,000 computers at state oil producer Saudi Aramco were infected in August, although there is no evidence that the virus got into its industrial control systems. But the Stuxnet worm virus that penetrated Iran's nuclear enrichment facility is now freely available on the Internet.

"After Stuxnet, the attacks on Aramco and other incidents, governments and enterprises are listening," Kaspersky said.

Earlier this month U.S. lawmakers said China's top telecom equipment makers should be shut out of the U.S. market as they posed a potential security threat, but Kaspersky was unconcerned that his new operating system might attract similar concerns.

"This system is quite compact - it's easy to check it doesn't have extra functionality … you own it," he added.

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Nuclear Trafficking Getting More Professional: IAEA Chief
Maria Golovnina
(for personal use only)

Terrorist groups trying to get hold of nuclear weapons on the black market are becoming more sophisticated and the world needs to do more to prevent sensitive material from falling into their hands, the U.N. nuclear chief said on Wednesday.

Addressing the Chatham House think tank in London, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano said one of the main risks was that militants could detonate a so-called nuclear "dirty bomb" to contaminate a major city.

"Terrorists (gaining) access to nuclear material is a real threat ... The amount (trafficked illicitly) is small but they are getting more and more professional," Amano said.

The IAEA's Illicit Trafficking Database, which monitors theft and other unauthorized activities involving nuclear and radioactive materials, contains more than 2,200 incidents registered since it was set up in 1995, he said.

Global powers have long warned of the growing threat of nuclear terrorism and urged closer cooperation to prevent acts of sabotage against nuclear materials.

A deepening confrontation between Iran and the West over Tehran's nuclear program has intensified the debate nuclear security, with some experts predicting that Israel could launch a military strike to stop Iran developing a nuclear bomb.

Nuclear experts say much of the world's smuggled nuclear material is traceable to stockpiles in Russia and other former Soviet nations where many ageing Soviet-era reactors and research facilities remain poorly guarded.

Amano said more needed to be done to stop illicit nuclear trafficking.

"This is a real threat. We need to collect information, we need to analyze it. We have to train people and we have to provide equipment," Amano said.

"Most of these (incidents) are very minor but some are very serious."

A so-called dirty bomb can combine conventional explosives such as dynamite with radioactive material.

Experts describe the threat of a crude fissile nuclear bomb, which is technically difficult to manufacture and requires hard-to-obtain bomb-grade uranium or plutonium, as unlikely but with the potential to cause large-scale harm to life and property.

But a dirty bomb, where conventional explosives are used to disperse radiation from a radioactive source, is what is known as a "high probability, low consequence act" with more potential to terrorize than cause large loss of life.

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China Sets Nuclear Security, Radioactive Contamination Targets
Xinhua News Agency
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China's Ministry of Environmental Protection on Tuesday outlined the country's targets in nuclear security and radioactive contamination control for the next eight years.

The State Council, or the Cabinet, has approved a plan on nuclear security and the prevention and treatment of radioactive contamination for the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) period and a vision for 2020, according to a press released posted on the ministry's website.

The nation aims to upgrade the security of its nuclear facilities and devices employing nuclear technologies to a new level by 2015, the plan said.

The document also said the risks affecting radiation environment safety will be "noticeably" lowered by the end of the five-year plan period.

By 2020, the safety condition of the nation's nuclear power will be among the world's best, it said, adding that China's nuclear security and radioactive contamination control level will be "comprehensively" raised,and the radiological environmental quality will remain in a good state at the same time.

China will adhere to the fundamental principle of putting safety first in nationwide efforts to meet these objectives, the State Council vowed.

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Sri Lanka to Institute a Nuclear Disaster Management Action Plan
Colombo Page
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Sri Lanka will institute a nuclear disaster management action plan regardless of an agreement signed between Sri Lanka and India over nuclear cooperation, Power and Energy Minister of Sri Lanka Champika Ranawaka said today.

Addressing a press conference in Colombo today (15) following the conclusion of talks with India on nuclear safety and cooperation, Ranawaka said that measures are needed to be prepared for an action plan in the event of a nuclear accident or radiological emergency.

He pointed out that the government's duty was to protect its people while India had the sovereign right to set up a nuclear plant.

"We are duty-bound to protect our people. We are doing that so no one can question it," he said.

Sri Lanka and India on Friday (October 12) held the first round of talks between the two countries on comprehensive civil nuclear cooperation in New Delhi and agreed to strengthen bilateral nuclear cooperation.

Ranawaka noted that the Sri Lankan government had informed India in May 2011 about the need to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two countries based on Article 9 of the 2nd Convention on the early notification of nuclear accidents.

The talks between Sri Lanka and India had been based on nuclear applications, technological assistance, technological transfers, capacity building of officials in Sri Lanka about the nuclear safety, and response to nuclear accidents with the participation of Indian authorities.

Sri Lanka has raised concerns over the commissioning of the Kudankulam Nuclear Plant in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district which is only 250 kilometers from Sri Lanka's northwestern coastal town of Mannar.

Responding to concerns India has assured that the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is a state-of-the-art plant that is compliant with the highest safety standards available in the nuclear industry and the safety measures instituted at the plant are of the highest order.

Minister Ranawaka said that Sri Lanka will install an alarm system provided by the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) and measure radiation levels along the coastal line.

The next round of talks with India on nuclear safety will be held in Colombo in the first half of next year.

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