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Nuclear News - 11/15/2012
PGS Nuclear News, November 15, 2012
Compiled By: Pia Ulrich


A.  Iran
    1. EU's Ashton to Host Meeting on Iran in Brussels on Nov. 21, Reuters (11/15/2012)
    2. Russia Nuclear Envoy Makes Snap Visit to Iran, AFP (11/14/2012)
    3. Obama Vows New Push to Solve Iran Nuclear Crisis, AFP (11/14/2012)
    4. Iran Expresses Hope of Deal on Nuclear Watchdog Visit to Parchin, Reuters (11/12/2012)
B.  North Korea
    1. N.Korea Builds Dome Over Nuclear Reactor - Reports, RIA Novosti (11/15/2012)
    2. S. Korean FM Sees 'New Consultation' for Resumption of N. Korea Nuke Talks, Yonhap News Agency (11/14/2012)
C.  Japan
    1. Fault Study at Oi Nuke Plant May Impact all Offline Reactors, Reiji Yoshida, The Japan Times (11/15/2012)
    2. Japan's Tepco Sees no Quick Re-Start for Biggest Nuclear Plant, Risa Maeda and Aaron Sheldrick, Reuters (11/13/2012)
    3. Government Official Begs Nuclear Regulator to Restart Reactors so Utilities Can Make Money, Adam Westlake, Japan Daily Press (11/12/2012)
D.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Approval of UK Nuclear Reactors Draws Closer, Priyanka Shrestha, Energy Live News (11/15/2012)
    2. China Nuclear Reactor Approval Process Back to Normal-CNNC, Reuters (11/9/2012)
    3. Baltic Ministers Express Support for Nuclear Plant in Lithuania, Bryan Bradley, Bloomberg (11/9/2012)
E.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. IAEA Team Finds Defects at Rawatbhata Atomic Power Station, P. Sunderarajan, The Hindu (11/14/2012)
    2. UN Nuclear Security Body Sees New Rules finally in Place by 2014, Tom Miles, Reuters (11/12/2012)
    3. South Korea Finds Cracks in Control Rod Tunnels at Nuclear Plant, Ju-min Park, Reuters (11/9/2012)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. Coping with Energy Transition, World Nuclear News (11/14/2012)
    2. Hashimoto Claims Nuclear Arms Abolition is Impossible, The Japan Times (11/12/2012)



A.  Iran

1.
EU's Ashton to Host Meeting on Iran in Brussels on Nov. 21
Reuters
11/15/2012
(for personal use only)


EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will host a meeting of representatives of six major powers in Brussels on Wednesday, as part of efforts to dissuade Iran from its nuclear programme, a spokeswoman for Ashton said on Thursday.

The talks with the six will be the first since the Nov. 6 re-election of U.S. President Barack Obama, which raised hope of a revival of diplomacy after hawkish campaign talk and speculation that Israel might strike Iranian nuclear facilities.

"Ashton will host a meeting of ... political directors in Brussels on 21 November," the spokeswoman said in an email. "This is part of the ongoing ... consultations to find a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue."

The six powers are the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany. The United States and Israel in particular believe Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons capability. Iran denies this, saying its programme is entirely peaceful.

Obama said on Wednesday he would renew efforts for a diplomatic resolution but that he was not "as of today" planning talks between the United States and Iran.

The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to submit its next quarterly Iran report to member states on Friday. EU and U.S. sanctions have made it harder for Iran to sell and transport its oil, but Tehran has shown no sign of backing down on the nuclear work.

Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/15/iran-nuclear-eu-idUSL5E8MFB6W20121115


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2.
Obama Vows New Push to Solve Iran Nuclear Crisis
AFP
11/14/2012
(for personal use only)


President Barack Obama promised to launch a new diplomatic push to solve the longstanding crisis over Iran's disputed nuclear program, saying there was still a "window of time" to end the standoff.

His comments came amid speculation about possible direct US talks that surfaced just before the US elections and has gone up in volume since Obama's reelection.

Iran, reeling from international sanctions over its nuclear program, has not ruled out direct talks with Washington but says these will not come overnight.

"With respect to Iran, I very much want to see a diplomatic resolution to the problem," Obama told a White House press conference.

"I will try to make a push in the coming months to see if we can open up a dialogue between Iran and not just us, but the international community, to see if we can get this thing resolved."

Though he was careful to stress that Washington remains adamantly opposed to letting Iran obtain a nuclear weapon, Obama added: "There is still a window of time for us it resolve this diplomatically."

He cited crippling sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council and unilateral Western restrictions on Tehran's oil sector and banks, calling them the "toughest sanctions in history."

Iran insists it is developing nuclear energy for peaceful, civilian purposes, but Israel and Western nations fear the program is a cover for a drive to produce nuclear weapons.

"There should be a way in which they can enjoy peaceful nuclear power while still meeting their international obligations and providing clear assurances to the international community that they're not pursuing a nuclear weapon," Obama said. "I can't promise that Iran will walk through the door that they need to walk through. But that would be very much the preferable option."

Obama nonetheless denied that talks with Iran were imminent.

"I think it is fair to say that we want to get this resolved and we're not going to be constrained by diplomatic niceties or protocols if Iran is serious about wanting to resolve this," the president added.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Monday that any "decision on comprehensive, bilateral political talks between the two countries... is up to the supreme leader," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Russia's representative in international talks with Iran over its disputed nuclear program, Sergei Ryabkov, was quoted as telling The Financial Times that Moscow would support direct talks between Iran and the United States.

Salehi also expressed hope that negotiations on its nuclear program with the so-called P5+1 -- the UN Security Council's five permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany -- would resume soon.

The P5+1 has for years sought to defuse an international crisis over Tehran's atomic ambitions through negotiations with the Islamic republic.

The last high-level talks, which all but failed, were held in Moscow in June.
The UN atomic watchdog has said it will hold a new round of talks in Tehran on December 13.

Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iiodXbIW5-p80eZagl7rp3BGg59w?docId=CNG.fbfe5b4a4157727fd147b687f2755e67.5a1


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3.
Russia Nuclear Envoy Makes Snap Visit to Iran
AFP
11/14/2012
(for personal use only)


Russia's representative in international talks with Iran over its disputed nuclear programme, Sergei Ryabkov, met Tehran's top negotiator on a surprise visit on Wednesday, news agencies reported.

Ryabkov, who is also deputy foreign minister, met Saeed Jalili, who said Tehran "hopes for a swift return of the P5+1 countries to the negotiating table," the official news agency IRNA reported.

The recognition of Iran's right to enrich uranium "cannot be a precondition for talks but will be one of the topics of discussion," Ryabkov said, according to ISNA, another Iranian agency.

Ryabkov's visit came three days after he was quoted as telling Britain's Financial Times newspaper that Moscow would support direct talks between Iran and the United States on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme.

However, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi responded Monday by saying any "decision on comprehensive, bilateral political talks between the two countries... is up to the supreme leader," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

US President Barack Obama, whose re-election Iran welcomed with caution, said on Wednesday there was still a "window of time" to end the standoff and promised further diplomatic efforts.

"With respect to Iran, I very much want to see a diplomatic resolution to the problem," Obama told a White House press conference.

"I will try to make a push in the coming months to see if we can open up a dialogue between Iran and not just us, but the international community, to see if we can get this thing resolved."

Salehi, meanwhile, expressed hope that negotiations on its nuclear programme with the so-called P5+1 -- the UN Security Council's five permanent members plus Germany -- would resume soon.

The P5+1 has for years sought through negotiations with Iran to defuse an international crisis over Tehran's atomic ambitions, which the West believes has military aims despite repeated denials by the Islamic republic.

The last high-level talks, which all but failed, were held in Moscow in June.

According to Salehi, Jalili and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the world powers in the talks, are to hold a telephone conversation "to decide on a venue and date".

The UN atomic watchdog has said it will hold a new round of talks in Tehran on December 13.

The Security Council has imposed four sets of sanctions on the Islamic regime, which coupled with unilateral Western restrictions on its oil sector and banks, have begun to cause major problems for its economy.

Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iInJAGfGg4U8w7TvXQo_BVbBw3gA?docId=CNG.5f5d4d61e54889235995304ae07eb89d.721



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4.
Iran Expresses Hope of Deal on Nuclear Watchdog Visit to Parchin
Reuters
11/12/2012
(for personal use only)


Iran expressed hope on Monday that a planned meeting with the U.N. nuclear watchdog next month would lead to a "framework of cooperation" on a possible visit by inspectors to the Parchin military site.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) believes Tehran may have conducted explosives tests that could help develop nuclear weapons at Parchin and may be cleaning up the site to remove evidence. Iran has denied this, saying Parchin is a conventional military complex.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano has pressed Iran to grant his inspectors immediate access to Parchin.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi expressed optimism over talks due to be held on December 13 between Iran and the IAEA in Tehran.

"We are hopeful that with the positive step Iran has taken in resolving this issue ... this meeting will identify a framework of cooperation in regards to the issue of a visit to Parchin," Salehi was quoted as saying by the Iranian Students' News Agency

Salehi did not give details, but Iran has previously said a framework deal on how the watchdog should conduct its investigation must be agreed before any agency visit to Parchin.

A series of meetings this year between the IAEA and Iran, the most recent in August, has failed to make concrete progress and Western diplomats have accused Tehran of playing for time.

Tehran says its atomic program is peaceful, but Western nations believe it is aimed at developing weapons.

Amano said in Baghdad on Sunday that "activities at Parchin are ongoing", a reference to Iran's alleged clean-up work, although he did not give further details.

Salehi repeated Iran's denial on Monday. "The idea that it is possible to clean up signs of pollution is not acceptable from a technical perspective," he said. "It is not possible to clean up signs of nuclear pollution."

The IAEA has said it hoped the talks in Tehran would produce an agreement to allow it to resume a long-stalled investigation into possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program.

But Vienna-based Western diplomats, speaking before Salehi's comments, expressed scepticism that the new meeting would yield a breakthrough.

"Our initial impression is that there is no indication from Iran that they are prepared to engage any more or any differently on substance than they have in the past year," one envoy said.

Amano also said on Sunday the IAEA had an "essential role" to play in breaking the stalemate.

"It is in the interest of Iran and the international community," Amano said. "That is why I think there is some big reason that Iran will get cooperative for us. But at the same time, the situation is very difficult and worrying and I do not want to speculate."

Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/12/us-iran-nuclear-idUSBRE8AB0HF20121112



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B.  North Korea

1.
N.Korea Builds Dome Over Nuclear Reactor - Reports
RIA Novosti
11/15/2012
(for personal use only)


North Korea has built a dome-shaped roof covering a light water reactor in Yongbyon, South Korea’s KBS TV channel reported on Thursday.

KBS said it “exclusively secured” recent satellite photos that show North Korea's reactor in Yongbyon has a diameter of 22 meters and is 40 meters high, and the outer walls of its turbine building "appear to be organized."

The North has also apparently completed construction of the outer part of a new light water reactor with a capacity of 25 to 30 megawatts in its Yongbyon complex, after first breaking ground in 2010, KBS said.

Compared to photos taken in April, the latest photos show signs that the amount of sand and earth around a newly-dug tunnel has increased.

KBS also said it had recent satellite photos of the nuclear test facility at Punggyeri but did not provide other details.

Under deals reached in 2007, the North began disabling a nuclear reactor and other facilities at Yongbyon under US supervision in exchange for economic aid and political incentives.

However, in April 2009 the reclusive communist regime expelled IAEA and U.S. nuclear specialists from the country and pulled out of talks with Russia, Japan, China, the United States and South Korea after the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution condemning North Korea's missile tests.

Available at: http://en.ria.ru/world/20121115/177487097.html


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2.
S. Korean FM Sees 'New Consultation' for Resumption of N. Korea Nuke Talks
Yonhap News Agency
11/14/2012
(for personal use only)


South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said Wednesday he expects regional powers to hold a "new consultation" for reopening the six-party talks aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons once a political transition in Northeast Asia is over.

Kim also voiced hope that the second term of U.S. President Barack Obama and North Korea could resume their bilateral dialogue if the North takes steps to restore trust in Pyongyang, which reneged on a food-for-nuclear freeze deal with Washington early this year.

"Currently, leadership changes are taking place in most countries engaged in the six-party talks. If so, I expect that they could hold a new consultation (for the resumption of the six-party talks," Kim said in an interview with news Y, the all-news cable TV channel run by Yonhap News Agency.

South Koreans go to the polls on Dec. 19 to pick their new leader with China also undergoing a once-in-a-decade leadership change this month. A snap general election is also likely to take place in Japan.

The six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, have been dormant since late 2008. Early this year, North Korea had agreed with the U.S. to freeze its nuclear and missile activities in return for food aid, but the "Leap Day" deal was scrapped with Pyongyang's failed launch of a long-range rocket in April.

Kim said the failed rocket launch "broke trust" between the U.S. and North Korea, but the two sides "could open the door for dialogue if North Korea takes measures to restore trust."

South Korea has been a staunch ally of the U.S., but a rising China is increasingly putting Seoul in a strategic and diplomatic dilemma between Washington and Beijing.

With Obama preparing for his second term and leader in-waiting Xi Jinping expected to succeed Chinese President Hu Jintao, Kim said he was confident about a cooperative U.S.-China relationship.

In the new era of cooperation between the U.S. and China, dubbed "G2," Kim said that South Korea should take the lead in inter-Korean issues.

"As for inter-Korean relations, the South and the North should meet each other and resolve issues," Kim said.

On Monday, Kim warned that North Korea may soon launch provocative acts as the North has a track record of testing each new government in Seoul after a presidential election.

This week, a U.S. academic Web site suggested that North Korea is pressing ahead with the development of long-range missiles.

Citing satellite images, the Web site 38 North, run by the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, said North Korea has conducted at least two tests of large rocket motors since the failed rocket launch in April, raising a possibility of another rocket launch.

"In the aftermath of the U.S. and South Korean presidential elections, Pyongyang may embark on a new round of activities in the first half of 2013, including rocket and nuclear tests that will contribute to the further development of its nuclear deterrent," it said.

Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2012/11/14/7/0401000000AEN20121114003900315F.HTML


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C.  Japan

1.
Fault Study at Oi Nuke Plant May Impact all Offline Reactors
Reiji Yoshida
The Japan Times
11/15/2012
(for personal use only)


Toyo University professor Mitsuhisa Watanabe, a polemicist on active faults, has fought a long losing battle against Japan's nuclear industrial complex.

His research, ringing the alarm bell about active faults under and near nuclear power plants, has always fallen on deaf ears.

According to Watanabe, nuclear regulators and power companies have a long history of willfully underestimating the danger posed by active faults near a number of reactors.

But now the Fukushima nuclear crisis may have finally changed the rules of the game.

Watanabe, thanks to recommendations from academic societies, now sits on the five-member expert panel investigating possible active faults beneath the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.

Watanabe is leading the discussions at the panel, which may determine the Oi plant's fate. He has maintained that a potentially dangerous active fault runs directly beneath critical equipment for units 3 and 4, the only two commercial reactors in Japan currently operating. He has called for their immediate shutdown until thorough geological surveys can be conducted.

"Active faults run parallel in many cases. If you determine one fault is active, the possibility becomes higher that nearby parallel faults may also be active," Watanabe told The Japan Times during a recent interview. "You need to stop the reactors to conduct thorough surveys to check all of them first."

All of the other members of the expert panel have admitted that the fault, named F-6, could be active and pose a serious danger.

Watanabe believes this is good enough reason for the government to order a temporary shutdown and conduct exhaustive geological surveys.

"If you can't deny the possibility that it may be an active fault, we should not ignore the risk. The plant should first be suspended."

Watanabe also pointed out that seismic experts in the pay of the nuclear power industry have drawn severe criticism for playing down the risk of massive quakes and tsunami before the catastrophic breakdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

"We should not repeat the same mistake that was made in Fukushima," he said.

The expert panel's judgment on the Oi plant is likely to have a significant impact on the fate of many other nuclear plants and probably the future of national energy policy as well.

The Fukushima meltdown crisis prompted regulators and utilities to assess possible quake risks at nuclear plants across the country, including those from potentially active faults.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority is set to draw up new safety standards that will set conditions for power utilities to reactivate any of the reactors halted in light of the Fukushima crisis.

Proving there is no active faults nearby is likely to be one of the key conditions before the NRA approves reactivation of any nuclear plant.

"What I'm most concerned about are issues involving faults," Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the NRA, recently told Kyodo.

The NRA will request Kansai Electric Power Co. to stop the reactors at Oi if the F-6 fault is determined to be, or is strongly suspected of being, active, Tanaka said.

The brand-new agency has launched geological investigations into six nuclear plants where suspicion is high that they may have active faults within their fences.

The Oi plant is the first to be examined by the experts. The other five are Fukui's Tsuruga and Mihama power plants, the Shiga plant in Ishikawa Prefecture, the Higashidori plant in Amori Prefecture and the Monju experimental fast-breeder reactor, also in Fukui.

Following a survey Nov. 2 at the Oi plant, which included digging trenches, the NRA plans to conduct a similar study at the Tsuruga plant Dec. 1 and at the Higashidori facility before the end of the year.

The Oi case has also drawn particular attention because its reactors 3 and 4 are the only ones the government has managed to reactivate in the face of the public's rising opposition to nuclear energy.

For now the NRA expert panel's focus is on whether the F-6 fault is active.

Some of the panel members suspect F-6 may have been created by a landslide, not an earthquake, and thus would be considered generally less dangerous. Kepco insists this is the case, but Watanabe isn't buying it. He says the fault appears to have moved up against a slope, making it unlikely a landslide was involved in its creation.

"Media tend to focus on debates about whether it was created by an earthquake or landslide. But that's not the most important point," he said.

Watanabe argues that utilities always try to play down any risk posed by active faults out of fear their reactors could be shut down.

"The nuclear regulator and power companies have long tried to underestimate (the danger) of active faults, worrying it would affect power supply capacity," Watanabe said, using the Shimane nuclear plant in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, as an example.

Takashi Nakata, now a professor emeritus at Hiroshima University, had long pointed out there is a fault near the Shimane plant that was overlooked by Chugoku Electric Power Co. before it built the facility.

Initially the utility denied the existence of the active fault. Then when it admitted in 1998 the fault was there, it estimated the length at only 8 km.

Facing further criticism from Nakata, Watanabe and other experts, Chugoku Electric extended the estimated length of the Shinji Fault to 10 km in 2004 when it applied for approval to build a third reactor at the plant.

The company eventually was forced to revise its estimate to 22 km in 2008, but only after outside experts dug up the ground to show the fault actually extend that far.

The longer a fault is, the more powerful the earthquake it can cause, which is possibly why Chugoku Electric was reluctant to admit the Shinji Fault stretches as far as it does, Watanabe said.

The nearest point of the active fault is currently considered to be about 2.8 km south of the plant. The utility argues the reactors can withstand an earthquake that could be generated by a fault that size.

The NRA's expert panel plans to conduct another survey in which a trench will be dug within the plant's compound by the end of the year.

However, Watanabe said a one-time survey like that will be far from sufficient to examine all of the suspected faults within the compound.

He stressed the importance of making sure the panels that will be investigating the faults under and near power plants are totally independent of vested interests in the nuclear industry.

To ensure independence, the panels should be given a budget and the authority to conduct on-site surveys wherever they believe it's necessary, he said.

Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121115x1.html


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2.
Japan's Tepco Sees no Quick Re-Start for Biggest Nuclear Plant
Risa Maeda and Aaron Sheldrick
Reuters
11/13/2012
(for personal use only)


Tokyo Electric Power Co sees no imminent resumption of operations at the world's biggest nuclear plant, shut down after last year's Fukushima disaster, further raising its costs as it spends more on fossil fuels to generate electricity.

A wall to protect the 8,212-megawatt Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station's seven reactors against tsunamis will not be finished until June next year, said Shiro Arai, deputy site manager.

"It is too premature to talk about when reactor restarts will happen," Arai told Reuters in an interview at the plant in Niigata prefecture on Japan's northwest coast.

An earthquake and tsunami on March 11 last year wrecked the company's Fukushima Daiichi plant, on the northeast coast, causing widespread radiation contamination.

All of Japan's nuclear plants were shut down after the accident, the world's worst since 1986, and public fear about nuclear safety has made it hard to persuade authorities to agree to approve the restart of plants.

Prospects also appear dim for any quick restarts as safety standards, to be drawn up by a new nuclear watchdog, will probably not be issued until the middle of next year.

Tokyo Electric Power Co, known as Tepco, needs to get Kashiwazaki-Kariwa running to reduce fuel costs, which totalled 1.34 trillion yen ($16.87 billion) in the six months through September when none of its reactors were online.

Restarting Kashiwazaki was also a central plank of the bailout of Tepco by the government, which injected 1 trillion yen of capital into the utility in July. Tepco also got a commitment from its banks to lend it another 1 trillion yen based on getting the reactors operating again to reduce losses.

Tepco President Naomi Hirose said two weeks ago that Tepco remained committed to starting the first of the plant's seven reactors in April. But Tepco's lack of transparency after the Fukushima disaster is a major concern, especially for those living in the shadow of the plant.

Four years before Fukushima, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant was damaged by an earthquake, triggering a fire and radiation leaks. At the time of the Fukushima disaster, three of its reactors were still being repaired and were not operational.

Arai, who had previously worked at Fukushima, showed Reuters elements of the 70 billion yen safety upgrade at the plant, about 220 km (130 miles) northwest of Tokyo.

Tepco is building tsunami walls to a height of 15 metres (50 feet) above sea level around the two clusters of reactors. The wall surrounding reactor No. 5, 6 and 7 has been completed but the defences around the older 4 reactors are still being built.

Workers could be seen setting steel reinforcing in place for a 1-km (half mile) section of concrete wall. In the distance, waves crashed against a sea barrier.

On a hill above the reactor buildings, pump trucks and trucks with generators and heat exchangers are standing by in case the power and cooling system are knocked out.

The company was also filling a newly completed reservoir capable of holding 20,000 tonnes of water for use in an emergency to keep reactors cool.

Tepco still needs to have radiation filters installed to protect staff inside an emergency bunker it built after the 2007 earthquake, Arai said.

Work on fitting reactor building doors with seals to prevent water intrusion will not be completed until the end of September next year, according to a schedule provided by Tepco.

Geologist Masaaki Tateishi, a member of a panel of experts that advises the Niigata government on safety at the plant, said Tepco needs to reassess the danger from earthquakes.

"Tepco has mostly finished implementing the safety steps required after the Fukushima disaster apart from finishing the tsunami walls, but I doubt whether these upgrades are enough to avoid a repetition," Tateishi said.

Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/13/tepco-nuclear-idUSL3E8MD0Y120121113


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3.
Government Official Begs Nuclear Regulator to Restart Reactors so Utilities Can Make Money
Adam Westlake
Japan Daily Press
11/12/2012
(for personal use only)


Isao Matsumiya, the Japanese government’s senior vice minister of industry, recently stated that he is “begging” the country’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) to give permission to utility companies to restart their reactors. His comment, which could easily be seen as pressuring the newly formed authority, meant to be independent from government influence, are contrary to the opinion of Industry Minister Yukio Edano, Matsumiya’s boss, who feels the NRA should make its own decisions based on safety.

The vice minister’s concern appears to have little to do with safety and everything to do with the utility companies’ ability to make money. Matsumiya was speaking with representatives from the Hokkaido Prefectural Government about how the northern island will need to implement power-saving measures over the winter. He said that he is begging the NRA to allow the suspended nuclear reactors across Japan to be restarted as soon as possible. If the current situation of all but two of the country’s reactors offline continues, the utility companies won’t be able to survive.

Matsumiya is either clueless of, or just doesn’t care about the Japanese public’s growing opposition of the use of nuclear power since the March 2011 disasters. The NRA has clearly stated that there won’t be any reactor restarts before next year, and even then, only those that have been thoroughly inspected and determined to be safe will be given approval. Even now the NRA is struggling to determine if the recently discovered fault line under Japan’s only two working reactors is active and a possible threat. But never mind all that, Matsumiya just wants the poor utility companies to be able to go back to making money with the same type of energy generation that they’ve been using for years.

Available at: http://japandailypress.com/government-official-begs-nuclear-regulator-to-restart-reactors-so-utilities-can-make-money-1218264


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D.  Nuclear Energy

1.
Approval of UK Nuclear Reactors Draws Closer
Priyanka Shrestha
Energy Live News
11/15/2012
(for personal use only)


The reactor planned for new nuclear power stations in the UK is on course to be approved by the “end of the year”.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency identified 31 issues last year to be resolved on the EPR reactor design chosen by EDF Energy and Areva for new plants at Hinkley Point and Sizewell.

The regulators’ latest report published yesterday suggested “a further six Generic Design Assessment (GDA) Issues have been closed bringing the total to nine”, with 22 left on which “work is progressing”.

GDA is the process of ensuring any new nuclear power stations built in the UK meet high standards of safety, security, environmental protection and waste management.

The report stated: “We now have technical agreement on the route to completion of almost all of the GDA Issues, and the remaining areas of discussion are receiving significant attention with a view to agreeing a way forward… Given the improvements in the quality and timeliness of the submissions we have received in the last six months, and our ongoing discussions, closure of all Issues should be achievable before the end of the year.”

Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson, Managing Director of Nuclear New Build at EDF Energy said this is “an important step” to deliver the “Olympic-sized” project at Hinkley Point C, which “offers big benefits for the country in jobs, skills and economic activity”.

The energy supplier has planned to build a new power station on a site, located to the west of the existing Hinkley Point power stations in Somerset.

Mr Cadoux-Hudson added: “Subject to a final decision to invest, these will be the first new nuclear reactors built in the UK for around 20 years. The proposed new station at Hinkley will provide enough low carbon electricity to power five million homes.”

Available at: http://www.energylivenews.com/2012/11/15/approval-of-uk-nuclear-reactors-draws-closer/


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2.
Baltic Ministers Express Support for Nuclear Plant in Lithuania
Bryan Bradley
Bloomberg
11/9/2012
(for personal use only)


Foreign ministers and lawmakers from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia expressed support for a planned nuclear plant in Lithuania that the country’s voters rejected in a referendum last month.

“The Visaginas Nuclear Power Plant is an important project which will increase the energy security of the region,” the Baltic Council of Ministers and the Baltic Assembly, an inter- parliamentary body, said in a statement today after a meeting in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.

In a non-binding referendum held on Oct. 14, almost 63 percent of Lithuanian voters rejected the plan to replace the defunct Ignalina nuclear plant near the town of Visaginas with a new one to cut dependence on Russian energy. Elections that ended on Oct. 28 were won by the Social Democrats, who opposed the project and seek to form a coalition government.

While a final decision must be made by Lithuania’s parliament and government, the Visaginas project is sound in terms of security, safety and economics, the Baltic gathering including Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said in the joint statement.

The three countries also pledged to collaborate on other regional energy and transport projects, and to defend common positions in negotiations about the European Union budget.

Separately, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis said canceling the Visaginas project “would mean a refusal to proceed down the route we have agreed with the United States and the European Commission” and could be misunderstood by international partners, according to an e-mailed statement.

Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-11-09/baltic-ministers-express-support-for-nuclear-plant-in-lithuania


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3.
China Nuclear Reactor Approval Process Back to Normal-CNNC
Reuters
11/9/2012
(for personal use only)


Toyo University professor Mitsuhisa Watanabe, a polemicist on active faults, has fought a long losing battle against Japan's nuclear industrial complex.

His research, ringing the alarm bell about active faults under and near nuclear power plants, has always fallen on deaf ears.

According to Watanabe, nuclear regulators and power companies have a long history of willfully underestimating the danger posed by active faults near a number of reactors.

But now the Fukushima nuclear crisis may have finally changed the rules of the game.

Watanabe, thanks to recommendations from academic societies, now sits on the five-member expert panel investigating possible active faults beneath the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.

Watanabe is leading the discussions at the panel, which may determine the Oi plant's fate. He has maintained that a potentially dangerous active fault runs directly beneath critical equipment for units 3 and 4, the only two commercial reactors in Japan currently operating. He has called for their immediate shutdown until thorough geological surveys can be conducted.

"Active faults run parallel in many cases. If you determine one fault is active, the possibility becomes higher that nearby parallel faults may also be active," Watanabe told The Japan Times during a recent interview. "You need to stop the reactors to conduct thorough surveys to check all of them first."

All of the other members of the expert panel have admitted that the fault, named F-6, could be active and pose a serious danger.

Watanabe believes this is good enough reason for the government to order a temporary shutdown and conduct exhaustive geological surveys.

"If you can't deny the possibility that it may be an active fault, we should not ignore the risk. The plant should first be suspended."

Watanabe also pointed out that seismic experts in the pay of the nuclear power industry have drawn severe criticism for playing down the risk of massive quakes and tsunami before the catastrophic breakdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

"We should not repeat the same mistake that was made in Fukushima," he said.

The expert panel's judgment on the Oi plant is likely to have a significant impact on the fate of many other nuclear plants and probably the future of national energy policy as well.

The Fukushima meltdown crisis prompted regulators and utilities to assess possible quake risks at nuclear plants across the country, including those from potentially active faults.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority is set to draw up new safety standards that will set conditions for power utilities to reactivate any of the reactors halted in light of the Fukushima crisis.

Proving there is no active faults nearby is likely to be one of the key conditions before the NRA approves reactivation of any nuclear plant.

"What I'm most concerned about are issues involving faults," Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the NRA, recently told Kyodo.

The NRA will request Kansai Electric Power Co. to stop the reactors at Oi if the F-6 fault is determined to be, or is strongly suspected of being, active, Tanaka said.

The brand-new agency has launched geological investigations into six nuclear plants where suspicion is high that they may have active faults within their fences.

The Oi plant is the first to be examined by the experts. The other five are Fukui's Tsuruga and Mihama power plants, the Shiga plant in Ishikawa Prefecture, the Higashidori plant in Amori Prefecture and the Monju experimental fast-breeder reactor, also in Fukui.

Following a survey Nov. 2 at the Oi plant, which included digging trenches, the NRA plans to conduct a similar study at the Tsuruga plant Dec. 1 and at the Higashidori facility before the end of the year.

The Oi case has also drawn particular attention because its reactors 3 and 4 are the only ones the government has managed to reactivate in the face of the public's rising opposition to nuclear energy.

For now the NRA expert panel's focus is on whether the F-6 fault is active.

Some of the panel members suspect F-6 may have been created by a landslide, not an earthquake, and thus would be considered generally less dangerous. Kepco insists this is the case, but Watanabe isn't buying it. He says the fault appears to have moved up against a slope, making it unlikely a landslide was involved in its creation.

"Media tend to focus on debates about whether it was created by an earthquake or landslide. But that's not the most important point," he said.

Watanabe argues that utilities always try to play down any risk posed by active faults out of fear their reactors could be shut down.

"The nuclear regulator and power companies have long tried to underestimate (the danger) of active faults, worrying it would affect power supply capacity," Watanabe said, using the Shimane nuclear plant in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, as an example.

Takashi Nakata, now a professor emeritus at Hiroshima University, had long pointed out there is a fault near the Shimane plant that was overlooked by Chugoku Electric Power Co. before it built the facility.

Initially the utility denied the existence of the active fault. Then when it admitted in 1998 the fault was there, it estimated the length at only 8 km.

Facing further criticism from Nakata, Watanabe and other experts, Chugoku Electric extended the estimated length of the Shinji Fault to 10 km in 2004 when it applied for approval to build a third reactor at the plant.

The company eventually was forced to revise its estimate to 22 km in 2008, but only after outside experts dug up the ground to show the fault actually extend that far.

The longer a fault is, the more powerful the earthquake it can cause, which is possibly why Chugoku Electric was reluctant to admit the Shinji Fault stretches as far as it does, Watanabe said.

The nearest point of the active fault is currently considered to be about 2.8 km south of the plant. The utility argues the reactors can withstand an earthquake that could be generated by a fault that size.

The NRA's expert panel plans to conduct another survey in which a trench will be dug within the plant's compound by the end of the year.

However, Watanabe said a one-time survey like that will be far from sufficient to examine all of the suspected faults within the compound.

He stressed the importance of making sure the panels that will be investigating the faults under and near power plants are totally independent of vested interests in the nuclear industry.

To ensure independence, the panels should be given a budget and the authority to conduct on-site surveys wherever they believe it's necessary, he said.

Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/09/china-congress-nuclear-idUSL3E8M91O020121109


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E.  Nuclear Safety & Security

1.
IAEA Team Finds Defects at Rawatbhata Atomic Power Station
P. Sunderarajan
The Hindu
11/14/2012
(for personal use only)


The safety review of units 3 and 4 of the atomic power station at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has ended with the inspection team identifying certain deficiencies in the operations of the units.

The team has found problems in the maintenance of the fire doors and electrical cables and has flagged a need for improvements in certain aspects of the surveillance-testing programme and the system for root cause analyses.

In a statement on Wednesday, team leader Miroslav Lipar said a number of recommendations and suggestions were made.

“Examples [of areas requiring improvement] include the following: the plant should enhance actions to maintain electrical cable conditions to a high standard; the fire door inspection and maintenance programme should be enhanced to identify and correct fire door function; certain aspects of the plant’s surveillance testing programme should be further enhanced; and the plant should enhance root-cause analyses to systematically identify all learning opportunities,” he said.

He said the plant management expressed its determination to address all the areas identified for improvements and requested that the IAEA schedule a follow-up mission in about 15 months.

However, the team also identified several “good practices” which would be shared by the IAEA with the global nuclear industry for their benefit in due course.

Examples of good practice included the safety culture of the plant, which cultivated a constructive work environment and a sense of accountability among the personnel and gave the staff opportunity to expand skills and training.

In addition, the public awareness programme provided educational opportunities to the local community about nuclear and radiation safety; the plant had a system for effective management of training activities and it used testing facilities and mock-ups to improve the quality of maintenance work and reduce radiation dose.

The team, he said, had provided the plant management with a draft of its recommendations, suggestions and good practices in the form of technical notes for their comments. The notes would be reviewed by the IAEA headquarters including any comments received from the plant management on them. The final report will be submitted to the Central government, within the next three months.

This is the first safety review of an Indian nuclear power plant under the IAEA’s ‘Operational Safety Review Team [OSART]’ programme. The in-depth review, which began on October 29, covered the areas of management, organisation and administration, training, operations, maintenance, technical support, operating experience, radiation protection, chemistry, emergency planning and preparedness, and severe accident management.

The review was conducted at the request of the Central government. The team comprised experts from Canada, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden, apart from the IAEA itself.

The OSART programme was launched in 1982 and teams of international experts have already conducted 170 such reviews before coming to India and Rawatbhata.

Available at: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/iaea-team-finds-defects-at-rawatbhata-atomic-power-station/article4095291.ece



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2.
UN Nuclear Security Body Sees New Rules finally in Place by 2014
Tom Miles
Reuters
11/12/2012
(for personal use only)


New global rules aimed at stopping terrorists getting hold of nuclear materials should finally come into force in 2014 - nine years after countries agreed they were sorely needed, a senior U.N. official said on Monday.

An amendment to the 1980 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) was agreed in 2005 but has not yet been ratified by two-thirds of parties to the CPPNM needed for it to come into force.

"A lot of efforts are going ahead to speed up the process to ensure that by 2014 this amendment will enter into force," Khammar Mrabit, director of nuclear security at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said on Monday.

He told a seminar in Geneva the revised treaty would ensure "global physical protection of nuclear material, and also (help prevent) sabotage of such material and such facilities."

Whereas the CPPNM covered only the international transport of nuclear material, the amendment includes its use, storage and domestic transport - meaning international cooperation would increase in those areas and breaking the new rules would be a crime.

"This is a big change, a big improvement," Mrabit said.

Fifty-nine states have already adopted the amendment and 40 more are needed for it to come into force.

The IAEA believes terrorist groups trying to get hold of nuclear weapons on the black market are becoming more sophisticated and more effort was needed to prevent them getting a "dirty bomb" to contaminate a major city.

As an example of the fruits of international cooperation, Mrabit cited a sting operation in Moldova in 2011 that seized highly enriched uranium. Although the amounts involved in such incidents are sometimes only 10 grams (0.4 oz), they are the tip of the iceberg, he said, since they may be a sample for a bigger sale.

The IAEA's Illicit Trafficking Database and has recorded 2,242 unauthorised incidents in 118 states since 1995. Materials used for nuclear weapons - highly enriched uranium and plutonium - accounted for 1.5 percent and 0.7 percent respectively.

Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/12/nuclear-security-idUSL5E8MCHIY20121112


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3.
South Korea Finds Cracks in Control Rod Tunnels at Nuclear Plant
Ju-min Park
Reuters
11/9/2012
(for personal use only)


The discovery of the cracks at the reactor comes just days after two reactors at the same plant in Yeonggwang county, in the southwest of the country, were shut down to replace parts that had been provided with forged certificates.

South Korea is investigating how thousands of parts for its nuclear reactors were supplied using forged safety documents, with regulators set to inspect all 23 of the country's facilities - a move that could test public support for the industry and threaten billions of dollars worth of exports.

"There are cracks in six tunnels. The reactor has been halted since October 18 for regular maintenance and now the process has been extended by a further 47 days for repair of the cracks," said a spokeswoman for the presidential Korea Nuclear Safety and Security Commission.

She said it was the first time cracks of this type had been found in South Korea's nuclear sector, but added the safety risk was not serious enough to require public disclosure.

The reactor affected by the cracks has a capacity of 1,000 megawatts, and a government official said the extended shutdown could complicate efforts to ensure steady supply of power through the peak winter season after the two other reactors had been stopped until the end of this year.

Asia's fourth-largest economy generates 30 percent of its electricity from 23 nuclear reactors at state-owned plants, and the government has warned of the potential for unprecedented power shortages due to the shutdowns as demand peaks in winter.

"This could affect power supplies, but we are preparing contingency plans," said a senior economy ministry official, who declined to be named as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

South Korea's state-run nuclear power utility said it was investigating the cause of the cracks, but said they had not caused any leaks.

"There are no penetrating cracks or leaks," Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, a subsidiary of state utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO), said in a statement. It operates all of the country's nuclear power plants.

The country's power utility and nuclear regulators have come under heavy criticism this week after the disclosure that eight firms had used forged safety documents to supply parts to nuclear plants raising concern of broader potential problems in the large and growing nuclear programme.

A task force has been established with government and private sector experts to inspect all reactors to ensure their parts are properly certified. It will also inspect five reactors under construction to see if troubled parts with forged certificates have been provided.

Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/09/us-korea-nuclear-idUSBRE8A80D420121109



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F.  Links of Interest

1.
Coping with Energy Transition
World Nuclear News
11/14/2012
(for personal use only)
http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/C_Coping_with_energy_transition_1411121.html


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2.
Hashimoto Claims Nuclear Arms Abolition is Impossible
The Japan Times
11/12/2012
(for personal use only)
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121112a2.html


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