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Nuclear News - 11/19/2012
PGS Nuclear News, November 19, 2012
Compiled By: Pia Ulrich

A.  Iran
    1. Iran Continues With Enrichment Program, World Nuclear News (11/19/2012)
    2. Iran Says U.S., Powers Must Be More Constructive in Atom Talks, Steve Gutterman, Associated Press, Reuters (11/19/2012)
    3. Iran Defends "Normal Procedures" at Bushehr Nuclear Plant, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (11/18/2012)
B.  North Korea
    1. S. Korean Nuclear Envoy to Visit U.S. For Talks on N. Korea, Yonhap News Agency (11/16/2012)
    2. DPRK Makes Progress on Nuclear Reactor, UPI (11/16/2012)
C.  Nuclear Energy
    1. South Korea Sets Sights on More Nuclear Deals in UAE and Middle East, Florian Neuhof, The National (11/19/2012)
    2. ’China to Emerge World’s Largest N-Power Generator by 2020’, The Hindu Business Line (11/19/2012)
    3. Next Administration in Tokyo May Not Adhere to Noda's No-Nuclear Power Goal, The Japan Times (11/17/2012)
    4. MOX Facility at SRS Gets Powdered Plutonium Feedstock, Rob Pavey, The Augusta Chronicle  (11/16/2012)
D.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. NNSA Agreement Would Speed Non-HEU Based Production of Critical Isotope, Mark Rockwell, Government Security News (11/16/2012)
    2. Japanese Industry Bolsters Nuclear Safety Cooperation, World Nuclear News (11/16/2012)
E.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. Myanmar to Sign New Nuclear Safeguards: Govt, AFP (11/18/2012)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. Mitsubishi Creates Camera that Can “See” Radiation, Goes on Sale in Feb., Adam Westlake, The Japan Daily Press (11/16/2012)

A.  Iran

Iran Continues With Enrichment Program
World Nuclear News
(for personal use only)

Iran has continued to develop its uranium enrichment capabilities, including the installation of more centrifuges at both the Fordow and Natanz sites, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported.

In a report to its board of governors, IAEA director general Yukiya Amano said that there has still not been an agreement on "a structured approach to resolving outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program and no agreement by Iran to the Agency's request for access to the Parchin site."

The report stated that contrary to the relevant resolutions of the Board of Governors and the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities in the declared facilities. "It is conducting a number of activities at the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF), the Fuel Manufacturing Plant (FMP) and Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant (FPFP) at Esfahan, which are in contravention of those obligations," it said.

According to the IAEA, since beginning enriching uranium, Iran has produced some 7611kg of UF6 enriched up to 5% U235, a increase of 735kg since Amano's previous report in August.

With regards to the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP), Amano told the board that additional information from Iran is still needed, "particularly in light of the difference between the original stated purpose of the facility and the purpose for which it is now being used."

"Since the Director General's previous report, Iran has installed 644 centrifuges at FFEP, thereby completing the installation of centrifuges in all eight cascades in Unit 1, none of which it was feeding with UF6," his report said.

Iran has also fully installed 61 cascades in Production Hall A at the Natanz enrichment plant, 54 of which were declared by Iran as being fed with natural UF6. The country has also partially installed one other cascade at Natanz. Preparatory installation work has been completed for another 28 cascades, and is ongoing for 54 others.

An ongoing problem for the IAEA has been Iran's continued refusal to allow inspectors to visit a military site at Parchin. The IAEA is keen to verify suggestions that the site may have been used for development work related to nuclear weapons in the early 2000s. In his report, Amano said, "The Agency reiterates its request that Iran, without further delay, provide both access to that location and substantive answers to the Agency's detailed questions."

In addition to continuing its uranium enrichment work, Iran has also not suspended work on all heavy water related projects, including the ongoing construction of the heavy water moderated research reactor at Arak, the Iran Nuclear Research Reactor (IR-40 Reactor). However, Iran has now told the IAEA that the IR-40 Reactor will not begin operation until the first quarter of 2014. It had previously been expected to start up in the third quarter of 2013.

The manufacture of fuel pellets for the IR-40 Reactor using natural UO2 is ongoing. Iran has completed the manufacture of dummy fuel assemblies for the IR-40 Reactor. However, Iran has not yet begun manufacturing fuel assemblies containing nuclear material, the IAEA said.

The IAEA is still awaiting a response from Iran to requests for further information in relation to announcements made by Iran concerning the construction of ten new uranium enrichment facilities, the sites for five of which, according to Iran, have been decided. Iran has also not provided information in connection with its February 2010 announcement that it possessed laser enrichment technology.

The IAEA said that it is still "unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."

A meeting between the IAEA and Iranian officials is scheduled in Tehran on 13 December.

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Iran Says U.S., Powers Must Be More Constructive in Atom Talks
Steve Gutterman, Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Iran is ready for new talks with global powers on its nuclear program but the United States and others seeking to rein in its uranium enrichment activities must be more constructive, Tehran's ambassador to Russia said on Monday.

Barack Obama's re-election has increased the chances of a revival of talks between Iran and six powers, but the envoy said the U.S. president should "change the conduct of the United States as regards Iran and choose a more logical approach."

Ambassador Reza Sajjadi said senior Iranian officials had conveyed Tehran's preparedness for new negotiations to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov last week, but his remarks appeared to set a firm tone for any new round.

"We hope that in the next talks, the six nations - instead of (applying) a double standard, would approach these talks more constructively," Sajjadi told a news conference, speaking through an interpreter.

Three rounds of talks since April have failed to resolve the long dispute over Iran's nuclear program, which Western powers say is aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability. Iran denies this, saying its program is for peaceful energy only.

But neither side has been willing to abandon dialogue, in part because a total breakdown could heighten the risk of Israel bombing Iranian nuclear facilities, potentially igniting a new war in the Middle East.

The six nations leading diplomatic efforts with Iran - permanent U.N. Security Council members the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, as well as Germany - meet on Wednesday to discuss negotiating strategy.

Iran's critics say it has used talks to play for time while drawing closer to weapons capability, mostly by increasing its stockpile of uranium enriched to a level - 20 percent - that makes it relatively easy to further process to bomb grade.

Uranium enrichment refined to 5 percent is suitable to fuel civilian nuclear power plants - Iran has none but says it plans to build them - while Tehran says the 20 percent product is for running its Tehran medical research reactor.

A U.N. nuclear agency report last week said Iran is set to sharply expand its uranium enrichment after installing all the centrifuges its underground Fordow plant was built for. Uranium is being enriched to 20 percent purity there.

Asked whether the additional centrifuges at Fordow would be used to refine to 20 percent or to the lower level required to make reactor fuel, Sajjadi did not answer directly but gave no indication they would be used for lower-level enrichment.

"Fordow already is operating, and ... is carrying out enrichment of uranium up to 20 percent," he said.

Sajjadi said a priority for Iran at a new round of talks would be receiving a formal response from the global powers to a "five-point" proposal that Tehran put forward at previous talks and includes a range of nuclear and non-nuclear issues.

He did not elaborate on how the United States and other powers could be more constructive. But his references to "logical approach" and "double standard", have often been used by Iranian negotiators and are regarded as code language for Tehran's demand for formal recognition of the right to enrich uranium and a removal of U.N. sanctions.

They were also another signal that Iran would not buckle under increasingly harsh economic sanctions meant to pressure it to suspend enrichment and negotiate on safeguards that big powers see as vital to ensuring Iran's program is peaceful.

"During the talks, the United States had two approaches up until now. First of all, they wanted to force Iran to retreat and to reject its legal rights. And second, to damage Iran's economy and deliver blows to the Iranian people," Sajjadi said.

"Iran has shown that there will be no retreat and that the reaction of the Iranian people to such mistaken actions will be decisive. So it is probably necessary for Mr. Obama to change the conduct of the United States as regards Iran and choose a more logical approach."

A diplomat familiar with Fordow said that 700 centrifuges which had been newly installed and tested were ready to start enriching "any day" but that it was still unclear whether they would be used for 20 percent refined uranium - as the 700 already operating there - or for lower-grade material.

"They can be used for 20 percent and can also be used for 5 pct," the diplomat said. They are fully ready."

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Iran Defends "Normal Procedures" at Bushehr Nuclear Plant
Fredrik Dahl
(for personal use only)

An Iranian diplomat said on Sunday Iran had unloaded fuel from its first atomic power plant as part of a normal technical procedure linked to transferring responsibility for the plant from Russian engineers.

The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report two days ago on Iran's nuclear program that fuel was unloaded from the Bushehr plant in October and transferred to a spent fuel pond. It came some two months after Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom said the long-postponed plant was operating at full capacity.

Bushehr is a symbol of what the Islamic Republic says is its peaceful nuclear ambitions, disputed by the West, and any new hitch would probably be seen as an embarrassment both for Tehran and Moscow.

It was plugged into Iran's national grid in September 2011, a move intended to end years of delays in its construction.

The report, submitted to IAEA member states late on Friday, did not give a reason for the fuel removal at the 1,000-megawatt reactor near the Gulf city of Bushehr. A diplomat familiar with the issue said it meant the plant was shut down.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, suggested the fuel move was linked to the gradual transfer of responsibility for operating the plant from Russia to Iran.

It is a "very normal technical procedure (during the transfer) ... to make sure every safety aspect is taken into consideration," he told Reuters, without giving details.

Early last year, Iran said it was having to remove fuel for tests. A source close to the matter said this was done due to concern that metal particles from nearly 30-year-old equipment used in the reactor's construction had contaminated the fuel.

Russian builder NIAEP - part of Rosatom - was last month quoted as saying Bushehr would be formally "handed over for use" to Iran in March 2013, whereas earlier officials had said that would happen by the end of this year.

Iran, a major oil producer, says electricity generation is the main motivation for nuclear work but its adversaries say Tehran's underlying goal is atomic weapons capability.

However, the Bushehr plant is not considered a major proliferation threat by Western powers, whose concern is focused on sites where Iran enriches uranium, which can have both civilian and military purposes.

Its construction was started by Germany's Siemens before the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed shah, and it was taken over by Russian engineers in the 1990s.

In theory, weapons-grade plutonium can be extracted from spent fuel, but this would require a reprocessing facility.

Former chief nuclear inspector Olli Heinonen said the spent fuel now at Bushehr was "not really" a proliferation risk.

"It is recently irradiated, so it takes quite some time, a year, to cool it down to level where reprocessing is feasible," Heinonen, now at Harvard university, said. He added it should also be sent back to Russia under its agreement with Iran.

Mark Fitzpatrick, a nuclear expert at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think-tank, said that early fuel removal at Bushehr in the "worst case" might provide weapons-usable plutonium. "Much more likely, it signifies technical trouble," Fitzpatrick added.

Soltanieh said the IAEA report - which showed Iran pressing ahead with its uranium enrichment program in defiance of U.N. Security Council demands to suspend it - proved that Tehran's nuclear program is "exclusively for peaceful purposes".

Iran's nuclear activities are continuing without any interruption, the Iranian envoy added.

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B.  North Korea

DPRK Makes Progress on Nuclear Reactor
(for personal use only)

A South Korean broadcaster reports it obtained exclusive satellite photos that suggest North Korea has completed work on part of a light-water nuclear reactor.

Researchers at IHS Jane's Defense Week told The New York Times earlier this year that North Korea was progressing with the construction of a light-water uranium reactor. Enriched uranium could find its way into the North Korea nuclear arsenal, though the country's first nuclear tests were believed to have used plutonium devices.

The Korean Broadcasting System reported that it secured satellite imagery from nuclear facilities that indicate a dome-shaped roof is covering a reactor in Yongbyon and work was apparently completed on the outer part of the facility.

This week, the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said information gleaned from commercial satellite imagery suggests North Korea has tested at least two rocket motors as recently as September.

North Korea was criticized in April for trying to deploy a long-range rocket into orbit despite assurances it wouldn't carry out nuclear of missile tests. Similar launches in 2006 and 2009 coincided with tests by the North Korean government of nuclear devices.

In October, Pyongyang said it has missiles in its arsenal that could strike the U.S. mainland and its strategic interests in the region.

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S. Korean Nuclear Envoy to Visit U.S. For Talks on N. Korea
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

South Korea's nuclear envoy will visit the United States next week for consultations on North Korea's nuclear issue in the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama's re-election, a Seoul official said Friday.

Lee Do-hoon, Seoul's deputy chief envoy for the six-nation talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear weapons program, will meet with Clifford Hart, Washington's special envoy for the six-party talks and other U.S. officials on a three-day trip beginning Monday.

The envoys "plan to assess the recent situation on the Korean Peninsula and discuss future ways to deal with North Korea," the foreign ministry official said on the condition of anonymity.

Obama was elected to a second term last week and South Korea is set to elect a new leader on Dec. 19.

This week, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said fresh efforts will likely be launched to re-open the six-party talks once leadership changes are completed in some of the countries involved in the long-stalled dialogue.

Kim also voiced hope that the U.S. and North Korea would resume one-on-one dialogue if the communist country takes proper steps to restore trust lost when it broke a food-for-nuclear freeze deal reached with Washington early this year.

The six-party talks, which put together the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, have been stalled since late 2008 following disagreement over an aid-for-denuclearization deal.

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C.  Nuclear Energy

’China to Emerge World’s Largest N-Power Generator by 2020’
The Hindu Business Line
(for personal use only)

China is set to emerge world’s largest nuclear power generator by end of 2020 even though it will continue to rely on coal to generate bulk of its electricity needs, a Rio Tinto executive has said.

“By the end of the decade, the emerging economic superpower was expected to leap to the number two position (in power generation), before overtaking the United States in the 2020s, producing 100 gigawatts of power,” said Rio Tinto Energy general manager (markets and Industry analysis) Stephen Wilson.

“Their (China) vision is to produce 400 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2050. That’s been publicly stated by Chinese officials,” Wilson was quoted as saying by Australian Associated Press (AAP).

“That’s more than the whole world has got today,” he said.

However, he said both India and China would continue to rely heavily on coal for the bulk of their electricity needs and to keep up with growing demand.

He said the growth in nuclear energy in China would come from new third generation power plants that produced electricity more cheaply than coal and gas plants in coastal China.

“What we are looking at in China now is a situation where it is the very early stages of a very, very significant nuclear build programme,” Wilson said.

“This is a quiet revolution.” he said.

Wilson said meeting the rising energy demand of billions of people would require both improvements in energy efficiency and ways to find new resources.

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South Korea Sets Sights on More Nuclear Deals in UAE and Middle East
Florian Neuhof
The National
(for personal use only)

South Korea wants to win further nuclear deals in the UAE and the wider region, and build on its successful bid to construct the Arab world’s first reactors in Abu Dhabi.

In 2009 the emirate tasked Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) to build four nuclear reactors in Barakah in the Western Region. Already a dominant player in the construction of energy and conventional power projects, Barakah is South Korea’s first foray into exporting nuclear expertise.

“The UAE deal is the first successful deal for export. Based on that success, [we] are also looking for some potential countries that might have an interest in nuclear development,” said Sang Hyun Lee, the director general for policy planning at South Korea’s ministry of foreign affairs and trade.

“There is a huge potential for cooperation in the nuclear area between Korea and the Middle East region.”

The first 1,400MW reactor in Barakah is due to come online in 2017, and all four reactors are planned to be operational by 2020. For the Koreans, the UAE holds promise for more business.

“We hope to make another deal,” said Mr Lee. His remarks come days before Lee Myung-bak, the South Korea president, will come to Barakah as part of his state visit to the UAE.

The reactors in Barakah will add a sizeable chunk of electricity to Abu Dhabi’s grid. But an increase in consumption means that additional nuclear power plants cannot be ruled out in the future.

“If the UAE electricity demand forecast keeps increasing, and there is a justification for further units, then we will look into it,” said Fahad Al Qahtani, the director of external affairs and communications at Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec), the government body in charge of Abu Dhabi’s nuclear sector.

The Government expects demand for electricity in the emirate to rise by 11 per cent each year to 2015.

Nuclear power is seen as an answer to the growing power needs in the Arabian Gulf. The bulk of power plants in the region run on natural gas, but gas resources in the region are insufficient for demand increases.

Governments are starting to develop renewable energy capacities, but some experts believe that solar and wind power will not be enough.
It was not only the oil-rich Gulf states that could buy into nuclear power.

“There are several Middle East countries that do not have rich oil production. For those countries, a nuclear power plant may be the favoured alternative source for energy,” said Mr Lee.

South Korea has already sold a research reactor to Jordan, a country with stated nuclear ambitions.

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Next Administration in Tokyo May Not Adhere to Noda's No-Nuclear Power Goal
The Japan Times
(for personal use only)

The plan by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, head of the Democratic Party of Japan, to reduce the nation's reliance on nuclear power to zero in the 2030s is likely to be sidelined if the DPJ falls from power in the Dec. 16 Lower House election.

Shinzo Abe, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, currently the main opposition force, has lambasted the zero-nuclear goal as "irresponsible." The once long-ruling LDP promoted and paved the financial way for the nation's atomic plants, which now mostly lie idle amid the triple-meltdown crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano, who championed the DPJ zero-reliance goal, has said nuclear power will be clearly a major issue in the election.

At a meeting with officials of a business group, Abe said the LDP aims to "achieve economic growth in Japan by promoting policies on nuclear power." The party will look to reduce the nation's dependence on atomic power, but not to zero, he explained.

The zero-nuclear goal came about as a direct result of the tragedy at Fukushima No. 1, whose quake and tsunami defenses were woefully inadequate to deal with the deadly March 11, 2011, megaquake-tsunami disaster.

Among newly launched political parties that seek to form a third force to vie with the DPJ and the LDP, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto's Nippon Ishin No Kai (Japan Restoration Party) also targets zero reliance in the 2030s.

In contrast, former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara's Toyo no To (The Sunrise Party), which is expected to merge with Nippon Ishin no Kai, has supported the use of nuclear power and would allow the construction of more atomic plants.

According to a plan adopted in October, the government will map out a strategy for promoting renewable energy sources and revamping the power industry by the end of this year as part of efforts to create a society that doesn't have to rely on nuclear power.

The government is expected to keep working on the strategy after the Lower House was dissolved Friday. "The work will be carried out steadily, as initially planned," Edano said.

However, a shift from the zero-nuclear goal, if decided, would be certain to affect the nation's overall energy policy.

The energy sector is keenly focused on the outcome of the Dec. 16 election and the next administration that will emerge from it, although a radical reversal of the current policy goals may not be in the immediate offing.

"It is too early to think that halted nuclear reactors will be reactivated soon after a change of administration," a power utility executive said.

Osaka Gas Co. President Hiroshi Ozaki said, "I hope the current energy policies will be reset and a new plan will be made under a new administration."

Currently, only two of Japan's 50 viable nuclear reactors are operating.

They are units 3 and 4 at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture. They were reactivated in July — the first to be fired up since the Fukushima disaster started.

All reactors now are required to undergo so-called stress tests to ensure they can survive natural disasters, and they possibly face even harsher qualification criteria under the newly established nuclear regulator.

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MOX Facility at SRS Gets Powdered Plutonium Feedstock
Rob Pavey
The Augusta Chronicle
(for personal use only)

The first 442 kilograms of plutonium oxide made from nuclear warheads have been accepted for future use the government’s mixed oxide fuel facility at Savannah River Site.

The announcement Friday by the National Nuclear Security Ad­ministration said the powdered plu­tonium was processed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and passed a “rigorous certification process” before its acceptance by Shaw AREVA MOX Services, the contractor that will build and operate the $4.8 billion plant in South Carolina.

The MOX nonproliferation program is designed to dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium by blending it with uranium to make nuclear fuel suitable for use in commercial power reactors.

In addition to the Los Alamos lab, Savannah River Site’s H Canyon chemical separations area was also assigned to produce plutonium oxide through a three-year mission announced in October 2011 that helped save about 90 jobs.

H Canyon is expected to provide up to 3.7 metric tons of feedstock, much of which will come from nonpit plutonium already in storage at the site.

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions began the repackaging and dissolution of nonpit plutonium this month, the nuclear security group said in its announcement.

The nuclear security administration, which manages the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, is working with the Tennessee Valley Authority in its quest to find clients willing to use the fuel.
The MOX fuel plant is scheduled to open in 2016, with production of commercial fuel starting by 2018.

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D.  Nuclear Cooperation

Japanese Industry Bolsters Nuclear Safety Cooperation
World Nuclear News
(for personal use only)

The Japan Nuclear Safety Institute (JANSI) has been launched to improve the safety of Japan's nuclear industry by sharing operating experience and safety knowledge among the country's nuclear companies.

The new body represents an evolution of cooperation in nuclear safety that started after the 1999 Tokai criticality accident. At that time, electric power companies, along with enterprises involved with the nuclear industry established the Nuclear Safety Network (NSnet). The network's main activities were to enhance the safety culture of the nuclear industry, conduct peer reviews, and disseminate information about nuclear safety.

"Based on lessons learned from insufficient efforts in the past and with a renewed commitment to make ongoing improvements, we will constantly strive to achieve the world's highest level of nuclear safety."

In 2005 this was incorporated into the Japan Nuclear Technology Institute (JANTI), as the Safety Culture Division. Peer reviews 'tailored to the corporate structure' were implemented periodically for members of NSnet involved in the nuclear fuel cycle of Japan. JANTI's Operating Experience Analysis Division collected and analyzed operating experience information that was previously handled by the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI) Nuclear Information Center.

JANSI has now been established on the foundations of JANTI, which currently has 123 member companies. Launching the reorganized organization, Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC) chairman Makoto Yagi said that JANSI's aim is to improve safety at nuclear power plants "by ensuring the completeness of measures including severe accident management based on lessons learned from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station."

"With independence and strong leadership, JANSI will collect and analyze the latest inputs from domestic and overseas sources that are relevant to the improvement of safety, evaluate the technical aspects of the safety improvement activities of electric utilities, and firmly guide the utilities' activities by offering advice and support," Yagi said.

He noted that if problems are identified at individual companies, they will "be assumed to be industry-wide problems". He said that Japan's nuclear industry aims to improve safety "by jointly solving any issues in a spirit of friendly rivalry."

Yagi said that, as Japan has very few energy resources of its own, the country must seek diverse energy options while maintaining safety, energy security, economic stability and environmental protection. This, he stressed, "requires the continued use of nuclear power as an important generation option, premised on nuclear safety."

"Based on lessons learned from insufficient efforts in the past and with a renewed commitment to make ongoing improvements, we will constantly strive to achieve the world's highest level of nuclear safety," Yagi announced.

JANSI is expected to operate in a similar manner to the USA's Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), which was set up after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 to share operating experience and safety knowledge among US nuclear companies. It was supplemented by an international version - the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) - after the 1986 Chernobyl accident. WANO and other organizations will provide guidance for JANSI's operation, as well as peer reviewing the institute's recommendations.

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NNSA Agreement Would Speed Non-HEU Based Production of Critical Isotope
Mark Rockwell
Government Security News
(for personal use only)

The agency responsible for U.S. nuclear security signed a cooperative agreement that would speed up safer production of technology that can produce a critical, but potentially dangerous, radioactive isotope used in medical procedures.

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) announced the agreement aimed at the establishment of accelerator-based technology that produces molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) in the U.S. The agreement, said NNSA on Nov. 15, with NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes, LLC, is important to ensuring a reliable domestic supply of Mo-99 for U.S. patients, produced without the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU).

The agency is working to reduce the availability and production of HEU worldwide, as the material poses more of a threat than less radioactive materials if it falls into the wrong hands.

As part of its nuclear nonproliferation mission, GTRI works to accelerate the establishment of a diverse, reliable supply of the critical medical isotope Mo-99, produced without the use of proliferation-sensitive HEU, said NNSA. The Nov. 15 agreement, it said, marks a significant step in these efforts.

The U.S. currently doesn’t have a domestic production capability for Mo-99 and must import 100 percent of its supply from foreign producers, most of which use HEU in their production processes. Technical difficulties and shutdowns at the major Mo-99 production facilities and expectations that aging reactors will cease production of this crucial medical isotope emphasize the need to establish a reliable supply of Mo-99, said the agency. The Mo-99 produced by NorthStar would provide additional reliability for the U.S. supply, it said.

The material is used in medical procedures like bone scans and cardiopulmonary procedures.

“This cooperative agreement is evidence of the significant progress that is being made toward achieving commercial production of Mo-99 here in the United States without the use of highly enriched uranium,” said Anne Harrington, NNSA deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation.

Previously, NNSA said it had awarded NorthStar two cooperative agreements, with a total of $2.8 million in federal support, to accelerate development activities while NNSA worked to satisfy its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). On the basis of the evaluations in the Final Environmental Assessment, NNSA has concluded its NEPA obligations and is now able to extend additional support to NorthStar to accelerate the remaining activities for project completion.

According to the agency, the award of this cooperative agreement -- to which NNSA will contribute $22.2 million -- is matched under a cost-share arrangement with NorthStar and will provide support for remaining activities for the establishment of NorthStar’s Mo-99 production capability using its accelerator-based technology.

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E.  Nuclear Safety & Security

Myanmar to Sign New Nuclear Safeguards: Govt
(for personal use only)

Myanmar said on Sunday it would agree to new atomic safeguards that allow inspections of suspected clandestine nuclear sites, ahead of a milestone visit by US President Barack Obama.

The news comes hours after the White House said Myanmar has taken "positive steps" to reduce its military relationship with North Korea.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, was suspected of pursuing military and nuclear cooperation with Pyongyang during long years of junta rule which ended last year.

A Myanmar government statement said that the country would sign the International Atomic Energy Agency's "additional protocol", which grants the UN nuclear agency right of access to possible undeclared activities.

President Thein Sein has approved the measure which will now be forwarded to parliament for approval, the statement said.

Allegations of nuclear cooperation between Myanmar and North Korea have been a top concern for Washington.

Thein Sein's government has denied any covert effort to obtain nuclear weapons technology from North Korea, which is locked in a prolonged atomic showdown with the United States.

The White House said ahead of Obama's visit to Yangon on Monday that the former junta-ruled nation was taking steps to reduce ties with Pyongyang.

"We've had a dialogue with the Burmese government about the need to reduce their relationship with North Korea," Ben Rhodes, a US deputy national security advisor said on Air Force One as Obama flew to Asia.

"We've seen them take some positive steps in that direction. And what we'd like to see, again, is an end to the relationship that has existed between Burma and North Korea."

A 2010 United Nations report accused Pyongyang of supplying banned nuclear and ballistic equipment to Myanmar, Iran and Syria.

Myanmar has maintained that it is too poor to acquire nuclear weapons and that it has always abided by UN resolutions.

Obama will become the first sitting US president to travel to the country, after a first stop in Thailand.

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F.  Links of Interest

Mitsubishi Creates Camera that Can “See” Radiation, Goes on Sale in Feb.
Adam Westlake
The Japan Daily Press
(for personal use only)

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