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Nuclear News - 10/31/2012
PGS Nuclear News, October 31, 2012
Compiled By: Pia Ulrich

A.  Iran
    1. Iran Calls for Recognition of Nuclear "Rights" as Hopes for New Talks Grow, Xinhua News Agency (10/31/2012)
    2. Iran Temporarily Put Nuclear Bomb Ambitions on Hold: Barak, AFP (10/30/2012)
    3. European Team Calls Off Iran Visit, Nasser Karimi, Associated Press (10/28/2012)
B.  Japan
    1. Japan’s Nuclear Safety Failures Also Found in Other Countries, Ida Torres, The Japan Daily Press (10/31/2012)
    2. Fukushima to Build Atomic Energy Research Base with IAEA, The Asahi Shimbun (10/30/2012)
    3. Utility KEPCO to State its Own Nuclear Plant is Safe from Fault Line, Adam Westlake, The Japan Daily Press (10/30/2012)
    4. Japan Quake-Hit Nuclear Plant "May Still Be Leaking Radiation" into Sea, Reuters (10/26/2012)
C.  North Korea
    1. UN Chief Open to Visiting North Korea, Voice of America (10/30/2012)
    2. North Korea Poised For Another Nuclear Test, Says S. Korean Defense Minister, RTT News (10/25/2012)
D.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Hitachi Wins Bid to Build up to 6 UK Nuclear Plants, Henning Glyostein and Karolin Schaps, Reuters (10/30/2012)
    2. Renewable Energy Will Overtake Nuclear Power by 2018, Research Says, Fiona Harvey, The Guardian (10/29/2012)
    3. China to Resume Nuclear Power Construction,, UPI (10/25/2012)
E.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. ČR, Slovakia to Cooperate on Nuclear Energy Issues, Prague Daily Monitor (10/31/2012)
F.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. Nuclear-Power Industry Survives Sandy’s Readiness Test, Kasia Klimasinska and Brian Wingfield, Bloomberg Businessweek (10/31/2012)
    2. IAEA Team Begins Safety Review at Rajasthan Nuclear Plant, Business Standard (10/29/2012)
G.  Links of Interest
    1. Finland Builds Nuclear Dump at Island as Obama, Merkel Lag, Torsten Fagerholm, Bloomberg Businessweek (10/30/2012)
    2. U.K. Submarine Development Reignites Nuclear Tensions, Kitty Donaldson and Helene Fouquet, Bloomberg Businessweek (10/29/2012)

A.  Iran

Iran Calls for Recognition of Nuclear "Rights" as Hopes for New Talks Grow
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

As hopes grow to settle the Iranian nuclear standoff through diplomatic means, the country persists the recognition of its "nuclear rights."

The P5+1, five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, and Iran have been engaged in breathtaking negotiations over the latter's controversial programs over the past years, however, no breakthrough has come out of the intensive talks.

The West has been accusing Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons under civilian disguise, a charge that has always been denied by Tehran.

Western reports said Tuesday that the European Union (EU) and the United States are looking forward to a diplomatic solution for Iran's nuclear issue.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Tuesday that she has plans to meet Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili " soon," according to the reports. Besides, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also expressed hope on the day that the Islamic republic could seize the opportunity for the diplomatic settlement of its nuclear issue.

Also, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia and Oceania Abbas Araghchi said Tuesday that his country is hopeful about the " success" of next round of nuclear talks with world powers, Press TV reported.

Araghchi expressed optimism that the next round of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 over the country's nuclear program would be based on "goodwill and would end up in success," according to the report.

"All (necessary) facilities and opportunities for the peaceful settlement of issues between the two sides (over Iran's nuclear program) are provided, if the P5+1 shows goodwill in the next round of talks with Iran," he was quoted as saying.

In the meantime, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday that in order to solve the nuclear issue, the P5+1 should have a " logical" approach towards Iran's nuclear program and Iran's nuclear rights, including the rights to produce fuel for peaceful nuclear activities, which should be recognized.

Iran has offered its viewpoints "clearly" in the previous talks with the P5+1 and has put forward a number of proposals and awaits their response, said Mehmanparast.

After Iran and the P5+1 held intensive talks in Moscow on June 18-19, they agreed to meet again in Turkey' s Istanbul in July at the expert level. According to Ali Baqeri, Iran's deputy nuclear negotiator, the talks in Istanbul were "positive." However, no date and venue were set for further high- level negotiations.

Earlier this month, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi said "According to the latest negotiations, the (nuclear) talks between two sides will be held in November and possibly in late November."

About the recent Western media reports that there was an agreement for bilateral talks between Iran and the United States over Tehran's controversial nuclear program, Mehmanparast said Tuesday that such news was originated from the U.S. sources and " domestically used for the U.S. presidential elections."

On Oct. 20, the New York Times reported that the United States and Iran had agreed for the first time to have one-on-one nuke talks after the upcoming U.S. presidential elections.

The paper said the agreement was the result of intense and secret exchanges between officials of the two countries, which began almost immediately after U.S. President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.

On Oct. 21, Iranian foreign minister said that Iran would not hold "independent" talks with the United States outside the framework of nuclear negotiations with the P5+1.

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Iran Temporarily Put Nuclear Bomb Ambitions on Hold: Barak
(for personal use only)

Iran averted a showdown over its nuclear programme by putting a third of its medium-enriched uranium to civilian use, but the respite may be short-lived, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph while on a visit to London, Barak said it was "probable" that a tipping point in Israel's standoff with Iran over its nuclear programme would have been reached before the US presidential election next month had Iran not diverted the fuel in August.

The decision put back any immediate plans Iran had for acquiring a nuclear bomb, but Barak told the British newspaper the "moment of truth" had only been delayed by "eight to 10 months".

Israel has engaged in much sabre-rattling over Iran's nuclear programme in recent months, with several politicians proposing a preemptive military strike to avoid any possibility of Tehran acquiring an atomic weapon.

Barak explained that Tehran had amassed 189 kilograms (417 pounds) of 20-percent pure uranium -- a key step in the development of weapons-grade material -- but that 38 percent of this was converted into fuel rods for a civilian research reactor.

In comments published on the Telegraph's website, Barak argued there were three possible reasons for this.

"One is the public discourse about a possible Israeli or American operation deterred them from trying to come closer," he reasoned.

"It could probably be a diplomatic gambit that they have launched in order to avoid this issue culminating before the American election, just to gain some time.

"It could be a way of telling the International Atomic Energy Agency 'oh we comply with our commitments'," he added.

Several rounds of negotiations between world powers and Tehran have failed to produce much progress on increasing the transparency of Tehran's nuclear programme, which the West suspects is a front for developing nuclear weapons.

Tehran denies the charge and insists it has a right to enrich uranium -- despite four rounds of UN sanctions over its refusal to cooperate with nuclear agency inspectors.

Iran and the United States have recently both denied reaching a deal for one-on-one nuclear talks, as The New York Times had reported -- even though the White House said it was open to such dialogue.

Barak said he doubted that sanctions and diplomacy would resolve the crisis and predicted Israel would probably face a decision over whether to launch strikes in 2013.

He insisted that Israel had the right to act alone and that a preemptive strike would be less risky than waiting until Iran had acquired a nuclear weapon.

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European Team Calls Off Iran Visit
Nasser Karimi
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

A delegation from the European Parliament has called off plans to visit Iran after being refused guarantees they could visit two jailed activists awarded freedom prizes, officials said Sunday.

The trip, scheduled for its first full day on Sunday, had brought criticism from some conservative European politicians, claiming it sent mixed messages as the European Union tightens sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. A senior Iranian lawmaker, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, was quoted by the semiofficial Mehr news agency as blaming Israeli pressure for the cancellation.

But Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said the decision was made after Iranian authorities said the five-member delegation could not visit with jailed Iranian dissidents Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi.

The European Parliament awarded the 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Soutedeh, a human rights lawyer, and Panahi, a filmmaker who won the Camera d'Or at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. Both were charged with roles in supporting the opposition in post-election unrest in 2009.

The European delegates hoped to personally deliver invitations for the award ceremony in Strasbourg in December.

Tarja Cronberg, a Finn who chairs the European Parliament delegation for relations with Iran, was told by the Iranian ambassador to the European Union on Saturday that it was impossible to guarantee a visit to Tehran's Evin prison "at such short notice." Cronberg then decided to cancel the trip, which has been scheduled to run to Nov. 2 and include meetings with Iranian lawmakers and representatives from civil society groups.

"I deeply regret that permission to meet the Sakharov laureates was withheld," Schulz said. "The European Parliament is nevertheless determined to continue its support for and involvement with the Iranian civil society."

The Iranian lawmaker Boroujerdi was quoted as saying that the visit was cancelled after Iran rejected preconditions. He heads the parliament's Committee on National Security.

Meanwhile, a German parliamentary committee arrived in Tehran for a six-day visit on Sunday, Mehr reported.

Mehr quoted Hossein Sheikholeslam, an adviser to Iran's parliamentary speaker, that the German group has already arrived in the country and are on the visit to central Iranian city of Isfahan.

The group will meet several Iranian top lawmakers as well as the director of the human rights committee of the Iranian Foreign Ministry. They also are scheduled to visit Qom, the center of Shiite religious study about 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of Tehran.

The trip by the group has been scheduled within the Iran-Germany parliamentary friendship group, headed by Iranian-born Bijan Jirsarai, a member of Germany's parliament. Before tighter EU sanctions, Germany was a major trading partner with Iran.

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B.  Japan

Japan’s Nuclear Safety Failures Also Found in Other Countries
Ida Torres
The Japan Daily Press
(for personal use only)

While all eyes are on Japan because of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the same errors that the Japanese committed are also present in other countries that run nuclear power plants. This was the bombshell dropped by Andre-Claude Lacoste, the outgoing head of the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire (Nuclear Safety Authority), France‘s top nuclear regulator.

According to Lacoste, nuclear safety focuses too much on technology to prevent accidents but fail to take into account human factors. Most especially, nuclear regulators in some countries do not possess sufficient independence from the government who is pushing for nuclear power and the nuclear industry who has a vested interest in the adoption of nuclear energy. He refused to drop names but mentioned that in some societies, good working relationships between people are more important than transparency, causing errors to go unquestioned and uncorrected. Lacoste himself oversaw two decades of nuclear safety in France, considered to be the most nuclear energy-dependent country in the world. Lacoste revealed that he headed a peer review of Japan’s nuclear regulatory system in 2007, warning the country about its shortcomings and recommending the creation of an independent nuclear watchdog, which the Japanese government rejected in 2010.

Lacoste also commented on countries that are trying to acquire nuclear reactor technology, saying that the real challenge goes beyond buying the technology. Getting into nuclear energy requires infrastructure to develop nuclear energy, people trained in operations, legal frameworks, and an independent watchdog. In some countries, there is just no chance of this happening and is just the stuff of dreams.

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Fukushima to Build Atomic Energy Research Base with IAEA
The Asahi Shimbun
(for personal use only)

Fukushima Prefecture, site of last year's nuclear disaster, will establish a research base there with the International Atomic Energy Agency to study decontamination and radiation safety measures, officials said Oct. 29.

They said the prefecture plans to invite IAEA scientists to carry out research at a facility to be built in the town of Miharu. The facility will work closely with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency and the National Institute for Environmental Studies.

The prefecture will also construct a facility in Minami-Soma that will be tasked mainly with monitoring the safety of facilities related to nuclear power.

In August, Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato visited the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, and he agreed with IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano on a joint project regarding decontamination and health monitoring of local residents.

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Utility KEPCO to State its Own Nuclear Plant is Safe from Fault Line
Adam Westlake
The Japan Daily Press
(for personal use only)

Utility company Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO), responsible for operating Japan’s only two active nuclear reactors in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, is to report the government that the recently discovered fault line running under the plant is inactive. The details of this report are to be revealed later this week, and surely the company that needs to keep the power plant running in order to stay in business wouldn’t try to cover up something vital to the safety of the public. Right?

Since August KEPCO has been researching the fault that runs under the reactors through digging and other survey methods. The utility company claims it has found no solid evidence to show the fault is anything but inactive, or would move in tandem with other faults in the event of a nearby earthquake. Japanese laws prohibits the building of nuclear reactors, or any other facilities related to nuclear safety, above fault lines that have moved in the last 130,000 years. After discovery of the Fukui Prefecture fault, critics called for the immediate shut down of the nuclear plant, stating that even its presence was a welcoming for another disaster such as Fukushima.

After all the evidence showing that the Fukushima crisis was the result of collusion between utility companies, the government, and nuclear safety regulators, it is incomprehensible why KEPCO has a voice on the matter of a fault line, or was even allowed to conduct its own investigation. The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), a recently formed agency with less connection to the government, is said to hold its own investigation on Friday. It’s not clear if the NRA will have the final word on the fate of the nuclear reactors, but we can only hope the government won’t leave the decision up to a utility company that has direct incentives to keep the plant running.

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Japan Quake-Hit Nuclear Plant "May Still Be Leaking Radiation" into Sea
(for personal use only)

The operator of Japan's quakeuck Fukushima nuclear power plant said on Friday it could not rule out the possibility that it may still be leaking radiation into the sea.

A massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 triggered fuelrod meltdowns at the plant, causing radiation leakage, contamination of food and water and mass evacuations, although the government declared in December that the disaster was under control.

The comment by Tokyo Electric Power Co follows a U.S. academic journal Science article that said high radiation levels in bottom-dwelling fish caught off Fukushima prefecture indicate continued radiation leaking from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Asked if Tokyo Electric, also known as Tepco, could confirm that the plant is not leaking radiation into the sea any more, a spokeswoman said: "Tepco cannot say such a thing, but we have confirmed that radiation levels are declining in both the sea water and seabed soil around the plant."

Ken Buesseler, senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution of the United States, said in his article on the Science website that little change in radioactive caesium levels found in Fukushima fish suggested a continued leak.

"The fact that many fish are just as contaminated today with caesium 134 and caesium 137 as they were more than one year ago implies that caesium is still being released to the food chain," he said.

Fishing off Fukushima prefecture, north of Tokyo, is prohibited except for test fishing for a few species such as certain types of octopus and squid, which are shipped only when they are found to be safe.

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C.  North Korea

UN Chief Open to Visiting North Korea
Voice of America
(for personal use only)

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he would consider a trip to North Korea as part of his efforts toward peace on the Korean peninsula.

Mr. Ban, a South Korean, made his comments Tuesday at South Korea's National Assembly where he received the 2012 Seoul Peace Prize. He was the first U.N. chief to address the body.

“I will spare no effort to help both the South and the North move toward eventual reunification and a Korean peninsula that is peaceful and free of nuclear weapons. As secretary-general, I am committed to doing my utmost to play any role in helping to advance peace on the Korean peninsula. That includes visiting North Korea, under the right conditions.”

He also said he looks forward to the day when North Korea “heeds the international community's call” by giving up its nuclear weapons and improving the lives of its people.

Mr. Ban was chosen for the Seoul Peace Prize because of what the selection committee called his “outstanding achievements in resolving and preventing international conflicts.” He is the first Korean to receive the prize.

The two Koreas have been technically in a state of war for more than 60 years. The agreement that ended the 1950-53 civil war was only a truce.

In his speech Tuesday in Seoul, Mr. Ban addressed global issues including economy and conflict. He said there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria and he urged the government and the opposition to end bloodshed. He also called for a concerted global effort to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons.

The U.N. chief also said that human dignity must be enhanced by implementing U.N. recommendations on periodic review of human rights.

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North Korea Poised For Another Nuclear Test, Says S. Korean Defense Minister
RTT News
(for personal use only)

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin says he has noted signs that North Korea will conduct another nuclear test.

"In fact, North Korea has been preparing for this for quite a long time," he said. "And when the time comes for a political decision, it may in fact resort to this third nuclear test," he told a joint news conference with his U.S. counterpart Leon E. Panetta following the 44th annual Security Consultative Meeting at the Pentagon on Wednesday.

Kim said that for now, the North Korean regime under its new leader Kim Jong-Un "seems to be quite stable."

Since taking over from his late father Kim Jong-Il, Kim Jong- Un has been trying to introduce economic reform measures, the Defense Minister said. "He seems to be making attempts to bringing a better life to his people, but the likelihood of success is yet to be seen," according to Kim.

He said the 29-year-old North Korean leader would continue to hang on to the "military first" policy that has been the mainstay of North Korea since the end of World War II. "He may be a lot more aggressive compared to old people, because he's still young," the South Korean Minister said.

Panetta agreed that much remains to be known about Kim Jung- Un's regime. "We still don't know whether or not he will simply follow in the steps of his father or whether he represents a different kind of leadership for the future," he said.

The U.S. concern is that North Korea continues to prepare for missile and nuclear testing, the Secretary said.

"They continue to engage in enrichment of uranium, against all international rules. They continue to behave in a provocative way that threatens the security of our country and, obviously, of South Korea and the region," he added.

North Korea remains a threat to regional and global peace, U.S. and South Korean defense officials said.

They discussed the threat from North Korea and reaffirmed that both nations are concerned about the North's nuclear and missile capabilities.

Kim told reporters that the allies would continue to work together to deter North Korea. Specifically, they will continue to work on "the concepts and principles for a bilateral deterrence strategy of the North Korean nuclear and [weapons of mass destruction] threats."

Panetta and Kim also agreed on South Korean missile guidelines.

The defense chiefs also addressed the planning that will lead to the transfer of wartime operational control for forces on the peninsula to South Korea, which is set for December 2015. The two countries agreed to jointly develop a future command structure that will ensure military efficiency after the transition of wartime operational control.

Panetta said he assured Kim that the United States stands fully committed to South Korea's security.

"Make no mistake, we will provide the forces and the military capabilities needed to help maintain security on the Korean peninsula," he said. "And we are committed to deepening and adapting our defense cooperation to meet evolving security challenges in the region."

The two sides agreed that their militaries will continue close cooperation against wide-ranging global security challenges and strengthen their cooperation in space and cyberspace.

At the meeting between the civilian and military leadership of the two defense establishments, the defense leaders led delegations that included senior defense and foreign affairs officials. This is the fourth time the two defense leaders have met, and the second time they've led the annual security meeting.

South Korea, one of the strongest U.S. allies in Asia, hosts 28,500 American soldiers based at Camp Casey, near the DMZ, and U.S. personnel have helped guarantee security in the South since the end of the Korean War in 1953. The Korean War, in which the U.S. troops fought on the side of South Korea, ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, hence North Korea technically remains at war with both sides.

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D.  Nuclear Energy

Hitachi Wins Bid to Build up to 6 UK Nuclear Plants
Henning Glyostein and Karolin Schaps
(for personal use only)

Hitachi on Tuesday won a bid to take over a company building up to six nuclear power plants in Britain, reviving hopes for investment in the UK's ageing energy infrastructure but leaving doubts they will come online in time.

Hitachi said it expected to have the first 1,300 megawatt (MW) nuclear power plant in the UK operational by the mid-2020s.

"This is a decades-long, multi-billion pound vote of confidence in the UK that will contribute vital new infrastructure to power our economy," British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement.

The British government said that Horizon would eventually include up to six nuclear power plants, which would be abe to provide 14 million homes with electricity for 60 years.

Hitachi is taking over the project from German utilities E.ON and RWE for 696 million pounds ($1.1 billion) and said it was already in discussions to find another company to operate the plants after they are built.

Analysts said the Japanese company could struggle to build the facilities in time to fill a looming power supply gap in Britain.

"The deal is certainly a positive development for UK electricity supplies given the concerns in the wake of RWE and E.ON pulling out, (but) if you are looking at a three-to-four year turnaround in the approvals process, that will inevitably fuel concerns over the UK's supply-demand balance in the latter part of this decade," Craig Lowrey, consultant at UX Energy Services, said.

Before construction can start, the Japanese company's Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) design will need to be approved by Britain's nuclear regulator, a process that Hitachi said would take three to four years.

Hitachi has a track record of delivering projects on time and on budget, UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey said.

Britain's power generation infrastructure is ageing and in need of modernisation to meet future demand and carbon reduction targets.

"By 2023, Britain will have shut down all but one of its existing nuclear power plants, which means up to 18 percent of current energy supply will disappear," Omar Abbosh of managing consultants Accenture said.

Hitachi said it had signed memorandums of understanding with British companies Babcock International and Rolls-Royce to help deliver the Horizon projects and would create 5,000-6,000 jobs in Britain during construction.

The Japanese company beat a rival bid from Toshiba, which owns U.S.-based nuclear reactor designer Westinghouse. Westinghouse declined to comment on the outcome.

"It was the money in the end. Westinghouse offered about the same, a touch less," said one source close to the negotiations.

The deal is expected to officially close at the end of November.

Hitachi has developed a different corporate strategy from that of E.ON and RWE to cope with the nuclear exit policies of their respective governments.

Following the nuclear accident at Japan's Fukushima reactors in the aftermath of a massive earthquake in March 2011, both Japan and Germany announced long-term plans to exit nuclear power generation, leaving companies with a choice of searching for new markets or closing their nuclear businesses.

Germany's E.ON and RWE decided to exit the nuclear sector.

"The sale (of Horizon) is in line with E.ON's revised strategy," E.ON said in a statement. RWE said it now has no further national or international new-build projects under way in the nuclear energy sector.

Hitachi, by contrast, has begun to seek overseas opportunities to sell their nuclear technology to, including Britain, Central Europe and the Middle East.

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Renewable Energy Will Overtake Nuclear Power by 2018, Research Says
Fiona Harvey
The Guardian
(for personal use only)

Renewable energy capacity will overtake nuclear power in the UK by 2018, if current rates of growth continue, and will provide enough power for one in 10 British homes by 2015, according to new research.

The amount of electricity supplied by wind energy alone is up by a quarter since 2010, in a surprisingly good year for the renewables industry. While the government has notably cooled on wind power – more than 100 Tory MPs signed a statement this year opposing new windfarms, and the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, has queried the future of subsidies – the industry has continued to grow, with investment in offshore wind up by about 60% to £1.5bn in the past year. Planning approvals for onshore windfarms also rose, up by about half, to reach a record level, according to the trade association Renewable UK.

Despite the outspoken opposition from many Tory MPs against wind power, there was a rise in the amount of onshore wind capacity approved last year for the first time since 2008.

Maria McCaffery, chief executive of Renewable UK, said: "These strong figures underline the importance of a secure trading climate to attract investment, especially in difficult times. That's why it's so important that the framework provided by the energy bill, currently under parliamentary scrutiny, must be right. Although we still have a long way to go to meet our challenging targets, we are firmly on track and gathering momentum."

John Hayes, the newly appointed Conservative energy minister who has been an outspoken critic of windfarms in the past, told the Guardian he was proud of the UK's wind energy industry. "Investing in cutting edge technology is very British," he said.

Despite his past opposition to windfarms, he said he would support new turbines if built in suitable areas. "It's about having the support of local people – that is the key thing," he said. Measures to make it easier for local communities to benefit from windfarms – for instance, by taking a financial stake in the revenues – are to be brought forward by the coalition government.

The energy bill, originally expected to be debated next week, is likely to be delayed until later in November as ministers wrangle over the implications. There is a sharp split within the Tory party over how to treat renewable energy, as more than 100 of the Conservatives' MPs earlier this year signed a letter opposing new windfarms. Peter Lilley, a vocal climate change sceptic, was appointed to the energy and climate change select committee last week in a move that some saw as an indication of a rightward shift in the government's climate policy. But David Cameron has in the past said renewable energy would be crucial to the UK's future prosperity.

Any last-minute changes to the energy bill risk alienating investors. Wind turbine makers are stalling decisions on whether to invest in new manufacturing plants in the UK, pending clarification from the government on its future energy policy. Several large companies, including Siemens, General Electric and Mitsubishi, are pondering building manufacturing plants in the UK, but will make no decision without firmer assurances from the government. The repeated insistence from Osborne that the UK's energy future lies with the gas industry – a new "dash for gas" is under way, with the government clearing the path for 20 new gas-fired power stations – has unsettled renewable energy investors. "The constant talk about gas is not reassuring for us," one wind investor, who could not be named, told the Guardian.

Renewable UK said that last year there were at least 137,000 people involved in the sector, with a further 654,500 jobs in ancillary industries.

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China to Resume Nuclear Power Construction,
(for personal use only)

China has lifted a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear projects, imposed 19 months ago after Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster.

That decision was included among several measures passed during a meeting of China's Cabinet Wednesday presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao.

Under the new plan China would have 40 gigawatts of nuclear power capacity -- three times the current level -- by 2015, says a statement released after a the Cabinet meeting.

Just prior to the March 2011 Fukushima disaster, however, China announced a plan to become the world's leader in nuclear power by 2020, with more reactors to be built by that year than the rest of the world combined. Nearly one-third of those were to be built inland.

Under the new plan, China will construct only a few projects in coastal areas that have gone through "adequate justification processes," the statement says. No nuclear projects will be constructed in inland regions.

"The principle of putting safety first must be implemented throughout the planning, construction, operation, retirement and other related processes," it said, noting that "safety is the lifeline of nuclear power."

China would apply the world's highest safety requirements to new nuclear power projects and adhere to third-generation nuclear safety standards in constructing new projects, the statement said.

"Even with the resumption of new approvals, I don't think we will see a reckless expansion as previously planned because of the months-long postponement (in the lifting of the ban) and simply the fact of the halting of inland reactors," Yang Fuqiang , a senior energy adviser for the Natural Resources Defense Council's office in Beijing, was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying.

As for the country's existing nuclear power facilities, the statement said the government has conducted "comprehensive and stringent security and safety checks" following the Fukushima nuclear accident. "The results have proved that the safety of China's nuclear power is guaranteed."

A government assessment released this month indicates that it would cost approximately $12.8 billion to upgrade China's nuclear facilities to international standards, the Financial Times reports.

Nuclear power accounts for 1.8 percent of China's total power output, compared to the world average of 14 percent, the statement says, while coal accounts for about 70 percent of China's energy consumption and about 80 percent of its electricity production.

Nuclear energy is irreplaceable," He Jiankun, director of the Institute of Low Carbon Economy at Tsinghua University, told China Daily newspaper, noting that it strikes a balance between an increasing thirst for energy and the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. He said that China's competitiveness would be compromised if it rejects nuclear power or if it fails to use the latest nuclear technology.

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E.  Nuclear Cooperation

ČR, Slovakia to Cooperate on Nuclear Energy Issues
Prague Daily Monitor
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The Czech Republic and Slovakia will cooperate in nuclear energy issues and will defend the right to use nuclear energy within the European Union (EU), both countries' prime ministers agreed at a meeting in Uherske Hradiste yesterday.

Both countries have a strong industrial potential and they cannot do without stable supplies of electricity for affordable prices, Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said after the meeting of both countries' government.

"Further continuation of the nuclear energy programme in Slovakia and the Czech Republic is our joint interest, and in both countries it is a national interest," Necas said.

"Not everybody in Europe likes the fact that the Czech Republic and Slovakia build their energy security on nuclear power plants. There are countries that would welcome...if nuclear power plants had problems or were closed," Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said, adding he was against such a possibility in principle.

"Each country has the right to decide on its own energy mix - to decide how many percent of energy will be generated from nuke plants. We cannot imagine energy security without nuclear plants," Fico said.

Stress tests have confirmed that both Czech and Slovak nuclear power plants have high safety standards, Fico noted.

The Slovak government is in favour of a merger of the Czech and Slovak freight railway carriers CD Cargo and ZSSK Cargo, respectively, Fico also said after the meeting.

The Czech Republic has been interested in such a merger for a long time. According to experts, the merger would help both carriers resist the German and Russian competition.

Slovakia is currently looking for a strategic partner for ZSSK Cargo. "We do not want to privatise the company but we are looking for somebody to form a joint venture with us," Fico said.

While ZSSK Cargo is struggling with debts, CD Cargo is tackling with falling sales and an increasing loss. For full 2012 the company expects to post a loss of Kc233m, compared with last year's Kc60m.

The Czech carrier has been looking for a partner since 2007. Besides the Slovak carrier, it has also shown interest in a majority stake in Poland's PKP Cargo.

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F.  Nuclear Safety & Security

Nuclear-Power Industry Survives Sandy’s Readiness Test
Kasia Klimasinska and Brian Wingfield
Bloomberg Businessweek
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Hurricane Sandy’s wrath shows that U.S. regulators should swiftly implement nuclear-safety rules developed after Japan’s Fukushima disaster, a top lawmaker said, as industry officials said the lack of major problems during the storm showed that they were ready.

“U.S. regulators have an opportunity and a responsibility to prepare for natural disasters and extreme weather,” Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said yesterday in a statement.

“An immediate first step is to fully implement the safety upgrades recommended by the Fukushima task force in a manner that ensures they are mandatory, in recognition of the fact that they are necessary to ensure the adequate protection of America’s nuclear power plants,” he said.

Hurricane Sandy this week pummeled the northeast U.S., forcing three reactors to shut down, and a fourth, Exelon Corp. (EXC)’s Oyster Creek facility in New Jersey, to declare an alert. The company terminated the alert early today.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which had dispatched inspectors armed with satellite phones to plants in the storm’s path, will roll back the inspections to the pre- storm level today, according to a statement e-mailed yesterday. The regulatory agency said that all safety systems in the three idled reactors responded as designed during the hurricane.

“Our facilities’ ability to weather the strongest Atlantic tropical storm on record is due to rigorous precautions taken in advance of the storm,” Marvin Fertel, chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, a Washington-based industry group, said yesterday in a statement.

Of the 104 operating U.S. reactors, 34 were in the hurricane’s path and 24 survived the storm without any incident, according to NEI. Seven units weren’t operating because they were being refueled and inspected, which typically happens during months when electricity demand is relatively low.

The NRC in March approved its first rules inspired by last year’s triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501)’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, triggered by an earthquake and tsunami. The plant lost off-site power and backup generators failed.

The new NRC rules, including one that requires reactors to have emergency equipment in place to indefinitely survive a blackout, are scheduled to be in place by 2016.

Reactor owners have begun buying mobile equipment, including pumps and generators to have in the event of an emergency. While Chicago-based Exelon has installed portable, diesel-fueled pumps at its facilities in response to the NRC’s Fukushima regulations, the company didn’t need to use them to respond to Hurricane Sandy, David Tillman, a spokesman for Exelon Nuclear, said in an e-mail.

Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. (PEG) of Newark purchased three pumps in response to the agency’s regulations, and also didn’t need to use them, PSEG Nuclear spokesman Joseph Delmar said in a phone interview.

Operators and federal regulators benefited from forecasts about the storm’s path and intensity.

“The fact that they knew this storm was coming allowed them to take action,” Dale Klein, a former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and now associate vice chancellor at the University of Texas, said in an interview. “I think it was relatively easy. They prepare for hurricanes all the time.”

Sandy, the biggest Atlantic Ocean tropical storm on record, moved along the East Coast for five days before slamming into the mid-Atlantic coast Oct. 29, unlike the Japanese event, which struck with much less warning.

Critics of U.S. nuclear-safety requirements said a few breaks, including that reactors such as Oyster Creek were idled for refueling, prevented a disaster, and that plants need stiffer government standards to cope with a likely increase in the number and severity of storms.

“We really need to re-evaluate plant safety in light of global warming and stronger storms,” Arnold Gundersen, the chief engineer of Fairewinds Energy Education Corp., a Burlington, Vermont-based non-profit that studies nuclear safety issues for clients such as the environmental group Greenpeace, said in an interview. It “changes the design basis of a plant.”

The NRC dispatched extra inspectors to 10 nuclear plants in the storm’s path across the mid-Atlantic and New England regions.

“Our plants responded very well,” Steve Kerekes, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, said yesterday in an interview. “The majority of them are still producing electricity, which is obviously needed.”

PSEG manually closed its 1,174-megawatt Salem Unit 1, about 18 miles (29 kilometers) south of Wilmington, Delaware, when four of six circulating pumps were no longer available because of weather, Delmar said.

Nine Mile Point’s unit 1 in Scriba, New York, run by a joint venture of Exelon Corp. of Chicago and Electricite de France SA in Paris, automatically shut down after a power disruption to a switch yard, the NRC said. Entergy Corp. (ETR)’s Indian Point 3 plant in New York also automatically closed because of power-grid issues, Neil Sheehan, an NRC spokesman said in an e-mail.

“Nuclear plant operators throughout the region had their hands full dealing with this historic storm,” Sheehan said. “While three reactors experienced shutdowns, all are in a safe condition.”

The nation’s oldest nuclear plant, Exelon’s Oyster Creek, declared an alert Oct. 29 after a water-intake structure flooded, according to an NRC statement. The plant, about 33 miles north of Atlantic City, was idle for refueling.

Exelon said the alert was declared when water rose above 6 feet (1.8 meters) above sea level. A disruption was also reported at the plant’s switch yard, which delivers power to the plant. Diesel generators kicked in automatically.

Offsite power was restored early today and the alert ended at 3:52 a.m. when water near the intake structure returned to normal levels, the company said in an e-mailed statement.

“Station employees responded quickly and appropriately to the storm’s challenges and all plant safety systems, including used fuel cooling, operated as designed,” according to today’s statement. “Additional workers are expected to return to the plant today to resume a refueling and maintenance outage that began Oct. 22 and was temporarily delayed by the storm.”

Gundersen said that if Oyster Creek was generating power, and the flood waters been just 6 inches deeper, it could have knocked out the pumps and triggered a disaster.

“That is unequivocally false, Oyster Creek has numerous, redundant sources of reactor and spent-fuel pool cooling that would be fully operational regardless of the water levels mentioned,” Exelon’s Tillman said. “Oyster Creek’s two locomotive-sized, flood-protected diesel generators would provide ample power to run the station’s emergency cooling systems in the event of a flood or loss of off-site power.”

Oyster Creek began operating in December 1969 as the nation’s first large-scale commercial nuclear power plant. The company announced in 2010 plans to close it by the end of 2019, when it will have been in operation 50 years.

Sandy may be the impetus for operators to reassess disaster protection, Robert Alvarez, a scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, said in an interview.

“There might be some interesting information about vulnerabilities being uncovered,” said Alvarez, a senior policy adviser to the Energy secretary during the Clinton administration.

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IAEA Team Begins Safety Review at Rajasthan Nuclear Plant
Business Standard
(for personal use only)

An in-depth operational safety review of two atomic power plants at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan by an expert team from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began today in the first such exercise in India after the Fukushima nuclear accident.

A 12-member Operational Safety Review Team(OSART) of the IAEA will review the programme and activities essential to plant operation based on the global nuclear watchdog's safety standards and proven good practices.

A Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited(NPCIL) release said the team consisting of experts from countries including Canada, Germany and Romania will carry out review by having plant tours, job observations and interaction with plant personnel.

The review is being carried out at the unit 3 and 4 of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS) station in Chittorgarh district, about 300 km from here, and is scheduled to be completed by November 15, the release said.

The OSART review is basically a peer review of safety status and operating practices. It would also give the nuclear operator insight into its operational process.

All nuclear plants in the country had undergone a peer review earlier by international experts of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO), but it is for the first time any nuclear plant is being subject to the OSART process.

At present, RAPS consists of 8 units including 2 units of 700 MW each under construction, and generates a total of 1140 MW of electricity, the release said.

A decision on inviting OSART experts to other nuclear power plants would be taken after studying the outcome of the process carried out at RAPS, according to officials.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had directed the Department of Atomic Energy to subject nuclear plants in the country to the OSART process to assist in its own safety reviews and audits of nuclear power plants.

This decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Singh in April last year to review safety concerns about nuclear plants across the country in the wake of the nuclear accident at Fukushima in Japan.

Three atomic power plants experienced a full meltdown following loss of power due to a massive earthquake and a subsequent tsunami at Fukushima on March 11 last year.

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G.  Links of Interest

Finland Builds Nuclear Dump at Island as Obama, Merkel Lag
Torsten Fagerholm
Bloomberg Businessweek
(for personal use only)

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U.K. Submarine Development Reignites Nuclear Tensions
Kitty Donaldson and Helene Fouquet
Bloomberg Businessweek
(for personal use only)

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