1. Iran Arrests Suspects in Nuke Scientist's Death
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An Iranian news website is reporting several suspects have been arrested over last week's killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist.
Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, said the suspects are being interrogated, and the investigation is continuing. He talked to Iran's state Arabic language TV channel Al-Alam, and his comments were carried on the Tabnak.ir site.
Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, an official in Iran's nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, was killed in a brazen daylight assassination Wednesday when two assailants on a motorcycle attached a magnetic bomb to his car in the Iranian capital. The killing bore a strong resemblance to earlier killings of scientists working on the Iranian nuclear program, and has prompted calls in Iran for retaliation against those deemed responsible.
Iran accused the U.S., Britain and Israel of involvement.
Washington denied any role in the assassination, and London condemned the killing of civilians. Israeli officials, in contrast, have hinted at covert campaigns against Iran without directly admitting involvement.
The U.S. and its allies fear Iran's program aims to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charges, and says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
On Saturday, Iran said it has evidence that the United States was behind the assassination.
The IRNA state news agency said that Iran's Foreign Ministry had sent a diplomatic letter to the U.S. saying that it has "evidence and reliable information" that the CIA provided "guidance, support and planning" to assassins "directly involved" in Roshan's killing.
Iran delivered the letter to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which looks after U.S. interests in the country. Iran and the U.S. have had no diplomatic relations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
IRNA also reported that Iran delivered a letter to Britain accusing London of having an "obvious role" in the killing. It said that a series of assassinations began after British intelligence chief John Sawers hinted in 2010 at intelligence operations against the Islamic Republic.
British media have quoted Sawers as saying that intelligence-led operations were needed to make it more difficult for countries like Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
The killing has sparked outrage in Iran, and state TV broadcast footage Saturday of hundreds of students marching in Tehran to condemn Roshan's death and calling for the continuation of the country's disputed nuclear program.
In the clearest sign yet that Iran is preparing to strike back for Roshan's killing, Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, the spokesman for Iran's Joint Armed Forces Staff, was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency Saturday as saying that Tehran was "reviewing the punishment" of "behind-the-scene elements" involved in the assassination.
"Iran's response will be a tormenting one for supporters of state terrorism," he said, without elaborating. "The enemies of the Iranian nation, especially the United States, Britain and the Zionist regime, or Israel, have to be held responsible for their activities."
Jazayeri also accused the International Atomic Energy Agency of being partially to blame, saying that the U.N. nuclear watchdog made public a list of Iranian nuclear scientists and officials that "has provided the possibility of their identification and targeting by spy networks."
Available at: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57359670/iran-arrests-suspects-in-nuke-scientists-death/
Iran has said it has agreed to talks with six world powers on its controversial nuclear programme, days after the UN confirmed Tehran was producing 20% enriched uranium.
Visiting Turkey, parliament speaker Ali Larijani said he had accepted Ankara's offer to try to restart the talks.
Negotiations have stalled since a meeting in Istanbul a year ago.
Analysts say 20% enrichment is a major step to making nuclear weapons, but Iran says it is for peaceful purposes.
More sanctions have been imposed on Iran since the last talks, with the US and EU targeting its oil revenues.
Mr. Larijani was speaking a day after a nuclear scientist was murdered in Tehran, an act that Iran blamed on the US and Israel.
Speaking at a news conference in Ankara, the Iranian speaker said the attack, the fourth on Iranian scientists, showed "how weak Israel really is".
"If Israel thinks they can prevent our studies with four terrorist attacks, it's a very weak way of thinking. Everybody will learn that they can't stop us with such actions," he said.
But Mr Larijani said Iran was ready for "serious" talks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.
"The negotiations can yield results if they are serious and not a game," he said.
However, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was still waiting for Iran to respond to a letter sent last October formally inviting Iran to the talks.
The BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul says Mr Larijani is one of the most influential players in Iran's opaque political system, so his visit to Turkey carries more weight than his official title would suggest.
It comes at a difficult time for Iran-Turkey relations, with Turkish leaders denouncing the violent suppression of anti-government protests in Syria, and Iran irritated by Turkey's willingness to host part of a Nato missile defence shield.
But for its part, Turkey still relies heavily on its neighbour for energy supplies - Turkey gets about 30% of its oil from Iran - despite pressure from the US to cut back its commercial ties with Iran.
Tensions between Iran and the West have been especially high since the US imposed new sanctions on Iran's central bank and the EU said it would place an embargo on Iran's oil exports.
EU foreign ministers are due to meet to approve the embargo later this month.
Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz - a key route from the Gulf through which 20% of the world's traded oil passes.
Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-16538363
1. New Fukushima Investigation Promises to Dig Deeper Into Nuclear Crisis
Tsuyoshi Inajima and Kanoko Matsuyama
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The head of Japan’s latest investigation into the Fukushima nuclear disaster promised to dig deeper than previous inquiries into the events that unfolded after an earthquake and tsunami struck the country in March.
A separate government investigation concluded last month that the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant withstood the shaking of a magnitude-9 quake on March 11, before succumbing to the tsunami that followed, endorsing findings by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) Three reactors had meltdowns after cooling and backup power was knocked out at the plant in the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl in 1986.
“The most important question the panel needs to answer is how much damage was caused by the earthquake, rather than the tsunami,” Tetsuo Ito, the head the Atomic Energy Research Institute at Kinki University in western Japan, said by phone yesterday. “If the panel finds evidence the quake damaged critical functions, all of Japan’s atomic stations will need to be reviewed.”
The latest investigation panel appointed by Japan’s parliament with subpoena powers may publicly question officials including former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, said Kiyoshi Kurokawa, chairman of the new probe, in a briefing with reporters after the inquiry’s first open meeting in Tokyo. Kurokawa, a professor emeritus at Tokyo University, said he will present his findings by June.
The report released on Dec. 26 by a committee headed by engineering professor Yotaro Hatamura, agreed with Tokyo Electric’s findings that cooling and backup power were incapacitated by the tsunami rather than the earthquake. Hatamura criticized Japan’s Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency in his interim report, yet fell short of assigning blame to individuals.
About 160,000 people were forced to flee radiation and areas around the plant may be uninhabitable for decades, the government has said.
Kurokawa’s inquiry may also throw light on other issues left alone by Hatamura, including whether Tepco asked the government for permission to abandon the plant north of Tokyo at the height of the disaster.
The panel yesterday revealed a flaw in response to the Fukushima disaster by the government, when they were questioning officials who were summoned to the meeting.
Itaru Watanabe, an official at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, said data produced by the system for projecting the spread of radiation, called SPEEDI, was provided to the U.S. before the Japanese public.
The data was disclosed to get the assistance of the U.S military for the relief effort on March 14, Watanabe said. The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan first released results of the SPEEDI projections on March 23, according to the ministry’s presentation materials. The data release for the public “was delayed while it was being considered at the government’s disaster response headquarters,” Watanabe told the panel.
The ministry officials then started explaining differences in definitions of words, saying the ministry didn’t “release” the data to the U.S. but “communicated” on the matter with the U.S.
“I want you to stop these word games” as bureaucratic definitions don’t matter to the public, Shuya Nomura, a lawyer and a professor at Chuo University Law School, told the officials.
The 10 member-committee will have the next public meeting on Jan. 30, which may produce further confrontations with government and Tepco officials. The Hatamura committee hearings were closed to the public to encourage open discourse, Hatamura said yesterday.
The parliamentary panel also includes some of the most vocal critics of the government and Tokyo Electric before and after the March 11 accident. They include seismologist Katsuhiko Ishibashi, who in 2007 warned of a catastrophic disaster at a nuclear plant to that which unfolded at Fukushima, and Mitsuhiko Tanaka, a former atomic equipment engineer and now an anti- nuclear activist.
Ishibashi yesterday clashed with Tokyo Electric Executive Vice President Masao Yamazaki, who told the panel the utility didn’t inform the public it had predicted before March 11 a tsunami may swamp the plant because the projection wasn’t based on scientific evidence.
“That’s an insult to science,” Ishibashi told Yamazaki.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-17/new-fukushima-probe-leader-vows-to-dig-deeper-into-japan-nuclear-disaster.html
2. Japan's First Reactor Stress Tests Reach Key Stage
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Japan's panel of experts is due to review the nuclear watchdog's first report on reactor stress tests on Wednesday in an important step in efforts to rebuild public trust shattered by the Fukushima crisis and restart idled reactors.
An official at the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) told Reuters it is preparing a report on its findings based on tests run by Kansai Electric Power Co on its Ohi on its No.3 and No.4 reactors. The panel's approval would pave the way for further review by Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and relevant cabinet ministers.
"We're organizing data and findings from the past discussions of stress test reports, aiming to discuss mainly the No.3 and No.4 Ohi reactors on January 18," a NISA official said.
He said the panel was also expected to look into other test results on Wednesday. Those tests, which NISA will later assess based on suggestions from the panel, concern Hokkaido Electric Power's Tomari No.1 and No.2 units and Shikoku Electric Power's Ikata No.3 unit.
The Nikkei newspaper said over the weekend that the watchdog would accept the results of the tests for Kansai's two Ohi reactors, but the official, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to talk to the press, would not confirm the report.
He said the panel could request more information before approving the watchdog's recommendations.
A go-ahead for the two reactors in Japan's western industrial heartland would mark a symbolic breakthrough in the government's and utilities' efforts to avert a total nuclear power shutdown before the next peak summer demand season.
The government ordered the stress tests -- computer simulations of how reactors would withstand severe shocks such as the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan's northeast on March 11 -- to overcome public opposition to restarting of reactors taken offline for regular checks.
But even after reactors win a clean bill of health from safety watchdogs and the government -- a process Industry Minister Yukio Edano has said could take several months -- the utilities will still need to win over skeptical local communities, which have demanded more assurances about nuclear power plants' safety.
Before the meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power's crippled Fukushima plant that triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years, nuclear power covered about a third of Japan's electricity demand.
The government is now debating a new energy strategy that will probably entail a gradual shift away from nuclear power and a greater role for renewable, clean energy sources. But it is also keen to bring existing reactors back in operation to avert a power crunch and ease the immediate economic impact.
Now, only five reactors out of a total of 54 remain online, prompting utilities to import and burn more fossil fuels to fill the gap at a higher cost to customers and the economy.
The maintenance schedule means that all reactors will be offline by late April if stress tests, a planned reorganization of the nuclear watchdogs and utilities' additional safety steps fail to convince the public. NISA has said it could ask a utility to run stress tests again if findings of new seismic or other risks to reactors emerged.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/16/us-nuclear-japan-idUSTRE80F0I320120116
1. Looters Attack Nuclear Power Plant Construction Site
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The construction site of Egypt’s first nuclear power plant, located at Dabaa in Matrouh Governorate, has been looted and vandalized, a source from the Ministry of Electricity and Energy said on Monday.
The official, who spoke to Al-Masry Al-Youm on condition of anonymity, accused security authorities and the governor of North Sinai of “causing the disaster.” The official said the initial losses were around LE0.5 billion.
He also accused a businessman and former member in the defunct National Democratic Party of being “behind the chaos,” but did not name the businessman allegedly involved.
The source said the meteorological station, ground water station and many of the offices had been attacked by “organized looters,” who took objects including computers, monitoring devices for earthquakes, furniture, cables and transformers.
However, other reports suggest that the construction site was attacked by residents of the area angry at the way in which the land for the power plant had been acquired by the government.
Residents of Dabaa staged a sit-in on Saturday after clashes with Egyptian military police on Friday.
The clashes left 41 people injured, including 29 soldiers, according to state-run newspaper Al-Ahram.
On Friday, about 500 residents had rallied demanding the dismantling of the nuclear power plant, saying their land had been confiscated for the project. They say the government did not compensate them for the land it took.
Mohamed Kamal Abd Rabu, head of the workers' union at the power plant, said that recently some Dabaa City residents “directly attacked the Dabaa national nuclear project site by bombing the rest houses and destroying the infrastructure using dynamite and loaders.”
During a meeting with members of the new parliament, Matrouh Governor Taha Mohamed al-Sayed said that Dabaa “is experiencing its worst days because of the looting, thefts, and bombings occurring at the nuclear plant’s construction site.”
Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri is expected to meet with Sayed within hours to discuss the Dabaa power plant issue.
Available at: http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/node/604026
Plans to transfer thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel from Chernobyl-type nuclear reactors to a new storage facility in Siberia in the coming weeks have been attacked by environmentalists.
State nuclear monopoly Rosatom announced completion of a new dry-storage facility at the Zheleznogorsk Mining and Chemical Factory, in the Krasnoyarsk region, in December. A train carrying 80 tons of spent fuel for the depot is expected to depart the Leningrad nuclear power plant in the near future.
“Dry storage” is considered safer than the current “wet-storage” arrangements — when nuclear material is kept in a pool of water that acts as a barrier to radiation.
“It will now be stored safely in permanent rather than temporary storage facilities, where it can be kept indefinitely until it is eventually reprocessed,” Rosatom spokesman Sergei Novikov told The Moscow Times.
Russia currently reprocesses just 16 percent of the spent fuel it produces annually, though it has set a target to raise efficiency to the point where it reprocesses as much as it turns out each year by 2020, Novikov said.
Although nuclear material is routinely moved from power stations and nuclear submarines to the country's two main storage and reprocessing plants in Zheleznogorsk and Mayak in the Chelyabinsk region, spent fuel from Chernobyl-type RBMK-1000 reactors has traditionally been stored onsite at the stations that use them.
Greenpeace Russia estimates that of 18,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel in storage in Russia, about 10,000 tons is from the RBMK-1000 reactors, which are still used by the Kursk, Smolensk and Leningrad nuclear plants.
“Moving nuclear material by train is routine, they do it annually. But they're planning 96 trains this year — which is several times more than usual,” said Vladimir Chuprov, the head of Greenpeace Russia's energy program.
Greenpeace argues that all nuclear material should be stored and dealt with where it is produced. Chuprov conceded dry storage is safer, but highlighted two risk factors — damage to the rail bed by the abnormally heavy trains and the small but real risk of accident or terrorist attack on the trains, which pass through cities including Novosibirsk.
The train from Leningrad — the first in the plant's history — has also drawn fire from local environmentalists.
“This is not dealing with the problem — it is just moving it to another part of the country,” Oleg Bodrov, the head of Leningrad region-based group Greenworld, told The Moscow Times.
“We’ve spoken to colleagues in Krasnoyarsk and in other regions and we are planning actions to protest this,” he added.
Bodrov, who lives in the town of Sosnovy Bor, not far from the Leningrad plant, said he first learned of the train from workers at the plant. He said he expected it to depart by the end of January “if everything goes smoothly” with the loading process.
Mayak and Zheleznogorsk also take delivery of spent fuel from some countries, including Finland, Slovakia and Bulgaria, that Rosatom supplies fuel to. Russian legislation forbids the import of nuclear waste — defined as byproducts of the nuclear process that cannot be reused.
Available at: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/business/article/rosatom-to-send-spent-fuel-to-siberia/451052.html
3. Third Generation Nuclear Reactors to Begin Service
Xinhua News Agency
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Though hindered by the Japan nuclear crisis, China's first AP1000 nuclear power reactor is expected to come into operation by the scheduled time of 2013, a Chinese nuclear company executive said here Saturday.
Wang Binghua, board chairman of the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC), said construction progress of the country's third-generation nuclear reactors is generally "under control".
The country started to construct its first third-generation pressurized water reactors in 2009, which were also the world's first to use AP1000 technologies developed by US-based Westinghouse.
Construction progress has slowed down after a massive earthquake and tsunami caused devastation and sparked a nuclear power crisis in Japan last March, causing delays of six to twelve months for the reactors under construction in China's coastal areas, according to Wang.
Wang also attributed the delays to Westinghouse's design adjustments during construction and a stricter construction requirement for endurance concerns.
It has also taken more time for the construction and management staff to adapt to the construction methods of third-generation reactors, he added.
But Wang said with optimized construction schedule and enhanced supervision over equipment, he was confident to bring the No 1 Unit of the Sanmen Nuclear Power Project in China's east Zhejiang province, one of the reactors under construction, into operation in 2013.
Wang also noted that designers of the projects have strengthened safety evaluation after the Japan crisis.
"Both the SNPTC and Westinghouse has agreed that the new reactors are able to survive the same shock experienced by the Japanese plant," he said. The two companies are still mulling over further efforts to ensure nuclear safety.
Jack Allen, Westinghouse's president of Asia, said the company has also gained regulatory permit to build nuclear stations using AP1000 technologies with the approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for its 19th revision of the AP1000 design control document(DCD).
China's own version of the AP1000 design, known as the CAP1000, is also one the way, according to the SNPTC.
"The transfer of key technologies and software from the Westinghouse has been completed," said the company.
According to Wang, 55 percent of the four reactor units under construction were made up with domestic equipment, and he expected that the country's fifth unit will be total domestic production.
Chinese designers are also working on an updated version of the AP1000 technologies, or the CAP1400 system, he said.
Initial designs of the CAP1400 has been completed by the end of last year, and will be examined by government experts in May this year, Wang said.
China has suspended the approval process for nuclear power stations so that safety standards can be revised after explosions at the Fukushima plant, the government announced in March last year.
"The revision will not change the country's nuclear power development plan, but to build a more solid foundation and convince the public of its safety and economical efficiency," Wang said.
Chinese nuclear safety authorities had completed and submitted reports on nuclear safety and nuclear power development, and the State Council is soon to review these reports and draw clear guidelines for the country's future nuclear power development, he said.
Available at: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/bizchina/2012-01/16/content_14454304.htm
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has reaffirmed Vietnam's determination to build a nuclear power plant because the country is due to experience serious power shortages in the next decade.
“We are determined to develop nuclear power into electricity. There will be not [enough] electricity without nuclear power. It is calculated that Vietnam will face a serious power shortage by 2020,” he said at a meeting on January 11 held by the Ministry of Science and Technology to review its 2011 operation.
Dung instructed the science ministry to complete legal documents and commit human resources to construct the first nuclear power plant in Southeast Asia.
“Withour ensuring personal resource, Vietnam will be unable to proceed with nuclear power or manage to do it but unsafely,” VnExpress quoted Dung as saying.
According to Dung, the legal documents are being drafted with references from other countries and assistance from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
He said Russia has agreed to give loans of US$10.5 billion, including $8 billion for building nuclear energy, $500 million for the Nuclear Research Center and the rest for relevant investment, in addition to ODA loans from Japan.
“We have regulations and capital and the world has technology. Vietnam is able to choose the most advanced technology,” he said.
Russia to lend Vietnam $9 billion for first nuclear plant Vietnam plans over $142 mln for nuclear power human resources.
Vuong Huu Tan, director of Vietnam Atomic Institute, said the institute is preparing a general plan for nuclear energy infrastructure. He added that there should be policies aimed at attracting the most talented scientists into the project.
Vietnam plans to build its first nuclear energy plant in Ninh Thuan with two reactors and 4,000 MW in capacity. Construction of the first reactor is expected to break ground in 2014 and generate electricity by 2020.
Available at: http://www.thanhniennews.com/index/pages/20120114-nguyen-tan-dung-nuclear-energy-power-plant.aspx
Germany famously moved to phase out nuclear energy following the atomic disaster in Japan last spring. Now states in the country are skeptically eyeing plans in neighboring countries, including the Netherlands and Poland, to construct nuclear power plants.
They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when it comes to nuclear power plants, German anti-nuclear activists are finding they're too close for comfort.
Less than a year after securing the rapid phaseout of nuclear plants in Germany, citizens concerned about nuclear safety are facing the unwholesome prospect of new plants popping up just over the border in neighboring countries. But they aren't letting it happen without a fight.
After Poland announced several possible locations for new reactors, including one less than 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the German border, German citizens flooded the Polish government with letters objecting to the plans. Environmental groups claim that a week ago Wednesday alone, the last day of the comment period, opponents of the plans submitted 50,000 objections.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government also submitted a statement, as did Anita Tack, a Left Party member and the environment minister of the state of Brandenburg, which is home to the majority of Germany's shared border with Poland.
"It is incomprehensible to me that our Polish neighbors still want to stick to their plans after the Fukushima disaster," Tack wrote in a letter to the Polish Economics Ministry last month. "Brandenburg has been against the use of nuclear power from the start," Tack noted.
A spokeswoman for the ministry, Alrun Kaune-Nüsslein, told SPIEGEL ONLINE the letter had been written in order to send a political message and to raise awareness among citizens. "A change in the original plans can only be achieved through a change of opinion among Polish decision-makers."
Poland is not the only source of German concern. On Tuesday, the governing coalition of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia -- comprised of the center-left Social Democrats and the Green Party -- announced its intention to object formally to the construction of a new nuclear reactor in neighboring Holland.
The proposed Borssele II plant would be located 180 kilometers from the North Rhine-Westphalia border. Environment Minister Johannes Remmel of the Greens said the plant posed "indefensible risks," and the state government intends to urge the Netherlands to undertake an "intensive investigation of alternatives."
Germans have long been skeptical of nuclear power, but the timing and location of these planned nuclear plants is particularly frustrating to German anti-nuclear advocates. Four days after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan last March and caused meltdowns at the Fukushima power plant, Merkel ordered the shutdown of eight of the country's 17 nuclear reactors. Two weeks later, the government announced that the remaining reactors would be phased out by 2022.
Environmentalists and safety advocates cheered -- but now, less than a year later, new plants are threatening to emerge across the border, a bit too close for Germany's liking.
"In the event of an accident, Germany would be affected by radioactive fallout," said Miranda Schreurs, director of the Environmental Policy Research Center at Berlin's Free University and a member of the German Advisory Council on the Environment. "So it's fair for Germany to be concerned."
German worries go beyond the direct threat of radioactivity. At the core of the debate is a philosophical and moral argument over whether it is right to pursue nuclear energy as a means of reducing reliance on fossil fuels and carbon dioxide emissions. The country has sought to establish an energy future for Europe centered on renewable, rather than nuclear, electricity. Already, this goal has been undermined by German electricity shortages in the wake of its nuclear shutdown, sometimes forcing Germany to import electricity from neighboring countries that use nuclear power.
Now, with more reactors being built by Germany's neighbors, nuclear power may become difficult to avoid.
"If other countries are developing nuclear power, it raises the question: In an integrated European energy network, to what extent is it really non-nuclear?" said Schreurs.
This is not the first time that Germany has objected to nuclear plants in neighboring countries. The plant in the Czech city of Temelin, 60 kilometers from the Bavarian border, has had more than 130 reported malfunctions over its 12-year history. While its first reactor was still in its initial test run, then-German Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin called for the accident-prone plant to be decommissioned. Two years later, with the plant's second reactor operational, he reiterated his call.
And last March, after the Fukushima disaster, the state of Baden-Württemberg asked France to shut down the 34-year-old Fessenheim plant, just two kilometers from the border, for three months -- the same moratorium initially planned for Germany's oldest plants after Fukushima. Both the Czech and French plants remained operational.
The current Polish case is noteworthy because of the conflicting interests at play. Poland is one of the few countries in Europe that does not have a single nuclear power plant in operation. The country began to construct a nuclear plant during the 1980s in Zarnowiec near Gdansk, but the Chernobyl disaster happened before it reached the final phase of construction and the Iron Curtain fell soon after.
Today the site lies in ruin, a ghost of Poland's nuclear plans. The country has since named Zarnowiec as the possible site of a future atomic plant.
The country currently generates around 85 percent of its electricity from coal, an energy source that emits large quantities of greenhouse gases and contributes heavily to global warming. Building nuclear plants could help Poland reduce its emissions and achieve its clean energy goals.
Emissions reduction is a high priority for Germany, which aims to cut its emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by mid-century. But Germans prefer to replace dirty energy with renewable sources, such as solar and wind, which don't carry the safety risks of nuclear power.
These renewable sources, however, require considerable time and money to implement -- perhaps more than Poland is willing to invest.
"Germany should not say, 'Well, the Polish people aren't allowed to build nuclear power plants. You have to follow our way, to invest in renewables, which is extremely expensive,'" said Joachim Knebel, chief scientist at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. "Germany cannot order another country to follow its example."
But Scheurs counters that nuclear power is also not a quick way to cut emissions. "It takes an extremely long time to build nuclear power plants," she said. "You're looking at a 10- to 18-year time frame."
Meanwhile, government officials in Brandenburg are continuing with their efforts to discourage Poland from moving ahead with its nuclear ambitions. "In our view, the development of nuclear power is not a desirable alternative," spokeswoman Nüsslein said.
According to European Union law, neighboring countries have the right to raise objections to the construction of new reactors across their borders. The countries undertaking the construction, however, are under no obligation to listen.
"I don't know that the protests in Germany will change policy in the Netherlands or in Poland," said Scheurs. "But protest within the Netherlands itself is more likely to lead to a prevention of that power plant. In the Netherlands, the coalition in power is a minority government. And so the percentage of the population that's supportive of nuclear is not that large. The German protest could lend support to Dutch protesters who are opposed to nuclear power."
Knebel agreed. "Governments have no reason to listen to German citizens if they protest somewhere abroad," he said. "But of course other citizens or countries or parties might listen to what people in Germany do, and this might influence the behavior of political parties."
Ultimately, though, Knebel argued, Poland's decision is just that, and Germany can't expect to impose its will.
"Germany cannot forbid Poland to build nuclear power plants," he said. "Germans can protest, but Poland is an independent country. It can do what it likes."
The nuclear reactor that Jordan seeks to build by 2020 will cost about $5 billion, said Chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission Khalid Toukan on Thursday.
Toukan defended the controversial project before the lower house of Parliament, where head of the chamber’s Legal Committee Mahmoud Kharabsheh alleged the venture would cost about $20 billion and overburden the country’s already cashapped treasury.
Kharabsheh also questioned the economic feasibility and safety of the project, saying it would jeopardize the country’s environment.
Toukan said that the government so far concluded nuclear cooperation agreements with 12 countries, including Spain, France, Russia and Britain. An effort to conclude a similar agreement with the US has reportedly faltered under Israel’s pressure.
“The third generation nuclear reactor to be built in Jordan is one of the most developed reactors and will be completely safe,” Toukan said.
“Besides, the generation of electricity by using nuclear energy will be economically feasible.”
Toukan also defended assigning the exploration and exploitation of local uranium ores to the French group AREVA, saying the firm is an arm of the French government and can be trusted to do the job.
“Uranium is available in Jordan in commercial quantities” that will feed the projected Jordanian and regional nuclear reactors, he said.
The Belgian engineering consultancy Tractabel is assisting the JAEC to select a site for the country’s reactor, which is due to start operation in 2020.
The Belgian group has chosen Mafraq, 60 km east of Amman, and the Red Sea port of Aqaba as potential sites and planned to release the outcome of its study by the end of January, JAEC officials said.
Three vying firms have been shortlisted to construct the nuclear plant— Atmostroy Export of Russia, AECL of Canada and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The winning firm may be disclosed in March, they added.
Available at: http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article562651.ece
Saudi Arabia signed an agreement with China in Riyadh Sunday for cooperation in the development and use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes, which will help to meet the Kingdom's rising demand for energy and cut its growing dependence on depleting resources.
The signing ceremony was witnessed by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao together with a large number of high-ranking Saudi and Chinese officials.
“The nuclear energy cooperation agreement seeks to establish a legal framework that strengthens scientific, technological and economic cooperation between Riyadh and Beijing, while the two sides reaffirm their desire to place the highest priority on nuclear safety and environmental protection,” said an official source. On behalf of the Kingdom, Hashim Abdullah Yamani, president of King Abdullah City of Atomic and Renewable Energy, signed the nuclear agreement.
Zhang Ping, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, signed on behalf of Beijing.
Another agreement to boost cooperation in the field of academics and library affairs was signed by the Riyadh-based King Abdulaziz Public Library (KAPL) and Beijing University. The agreement will broaden the scope of cooperation between the two premier institutions and allow KAPL to open its branch in the Chinese capital.
Talks between King Abdullah and Wen as well as the two signing ceremonies were attended by a large number of Saudi and Chinese officials including Crown Prince Naif, minister of interior; Prince Salman, minister of defense; Prince Muqrin, chief of General Intelligence; Prince Saud Al-Faisal, foreign minister; Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, minister of state and president of the National Guard; Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, deputy minister of foreign affairs; and Ali Al-Naimi, minister of petroleum & mineral resources.
Asked about the details of the official meetings Sunday, Li Lianghua, a spokesman of the Chinese Embassy, said the talks with King Abdullah was preceded by Wen's meetings with GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani and OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. He also held talks with Shoura officials. The talks with King Abdullah covered the whole gamut of bilateral issues and regional development, said another Chinese official.
He said the two countries pledged to work together to promote political and commercial relations as well as boost links in energy, trade, infrastructure, culture, press and security fields.
“China has also welcomed a move to organize a high-profile symposium in Beijing in mid-2012 to discuss relations between China and the Muslim world with special reference to Beijing's relations with Muslims in the past and the future perspectives of Islamic-Sino ties,” he added.
The pledge for a closer partnership was made during the wide-ranging talks between King Abdullah and the Chinese premier. Speaking on the occasion, Wen said: “The two countries strengthened high-level exchanges and promoted mutual trust in recent years despite the fact that international and regional situations became complicated and volatile.” He said both countries have treated each other as equals with respect, and their cooperation has been fruitful since the establishment of diplomatic ties 22 years ago.
“China and Saudi Arabia are both in important stages of development, and there are broad prospects for enhancing cooperation,” said Wen. “The Chinese government encourages companies in the country to take part in Saudi infrastructure construction ventures such as railways, ports, electricity and telecommunications,” said the Chinese premier after talks with senior Saudi officials. He also called on Riyadh and Beijing “to enhance security and law enforcement cooperation, and promote people-to-people exchanges in education and sports.”
Saudi Arabia is China's biggest source of imported oil, and securing energy security was high on Wen's agenda in Riyadh, said the official. China and Saudi Arabia should keep deepening cooperation as China is already Saudi Arabia's biggest customer and the Kingdom is keen to diversify its economic ties, he noted. On Saturday, the state-run Saudi oil giant Aramco and Chinese companies finalized an initial agreement signed last year to develop a 400,000 barrel per day (bpd) refinery in Yanbu, on the Kingdom's Red Sea coast.
On a regional front, GCC chief Al-Zayani expressed his keen interest to boost ties with China further during his talks with Wen in Riyadh Sunday. “Al-Zayani and Jiabao discussed during the meeting issues of regional and international importance with the GCC official lauding China's stance on topics pertaining to the Iranian nuclear program and the GCC initiative in Yemen,” said a statement released by the GCC General Secretariat after the talks.
Al-Zayani also expressed happiness over the increase of commercial exchange between China and the GCC, which amounted to $100 billion last year.
In regards to the bilateral free-trade negotiations, the GCC official affirmed that talks are on track since they were launched in 2006. Saleem S. A. Al-Alwi, GCC spokesman, said Wen spoke highly of the GCC’s achievements in safeguarding regional peace and stability since its establishment.
Saleem said the two sides expressed keen interest to work together and “to make full use of the strategic dialogue mechanism, plan bilateral cooperation from a macro perspective and highlight strategic cooperation for mutual benefit.” Wen called on both sides to build up mutual understanding, deepen political ties, and continue to understand and support each other on issues concerning each other’s core interests and major concerns.
He urged both sides to enhance coordination and cooperation in international and regional affairs, maintain common interests, deepen pragmatic cooperation on energy, economy and trade. Al-Zayani said after the talks the GCC as a regional bloc attaches great importance to strategic cooperative relations with China. “GCC is ready to work with China to enrich and improve cooperation mechanisms in all areas,” said the GCC chief, adding that member states are ready to maintain communication and coordination with China on major international and regional issues.
Wen also met with OIC chief Ihsanoglu and discussed ways of developing relations between the OIC and China, said a report published by International Islamic News Agency (IINA) on Sunday. The two officials also discussed current issues and regional developments especially in the Muslim world, said the report, adding that the OIC underlined relations between China and the Muslim world, which has not faced any problems in the past, stressing on the need to develop the mutual relationship.
The talks also focused on the importance of strengthening the strategic relationship between the OIC and China, and emphasized on continuing cooperation between the two sides. The OIC and Chinese officials also welcomed the move to organize a symposium in Beijing in mid-2012 to address the relations between China and the Muslim world in the context of the past and the future perspectives. The Chinese premier said his country “accords great importance to the convening of this symposium in cooperation with the OIC and the Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.
They also agreed to establish a trade exhibition at the World Trade Center in Ninshia, to be organized in cooperation between the OIC Islamic Centre for Development of Trade (ICDT) and officials in Ninshia, China. On the other hand, Wen also expressed his country’s interest in supporting development projects and infrastructure in OIC countries, including Port Sudan, Dakar Railway Project and many more projects from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. The Chinese premier will wrap up his three-day visit to Riyadh Monday morning evening and leave for the United Arab Emirates. He will then proceed to Qatar for a day's visit.
Available at: http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article563797.ece
1. S. Korean Envoy Heads to Washington for Three-Way Talks on N. Korea
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)
South Korea's top nuclear envoy left for the United States Monday to attend the first three-way talks with senior officials from Washington and Tokyo since the death of Kim Jong-il.
Lim Sung-nam, the chief South Korean envoy to the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, will hold the talks on Tuesday with his Japanese counterpart Shinsuke Sugiyama and Kurt Campbell, Washington's top diplomat on Asia.
Speaking to Yonhap News Agency before departing for Washington, Lim said he will "exchange views on the situation on the Korean Peninsula and discuss ways to resume dialogues with regard to North Korea's nuclear issue" during his three-day stay in the U.S.
Since the sudden demise of Kim, who died of a heart attack last month, his youngest son and chosen heir, Kim Jong-un, has taken the helm of North Korea, with a seemingly smooth transfer of power to date.
However, it remains unclear whether the new leadership is willing to hold talks with the outside world.
The six-party talks, which involve North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, have been dormant since late 2008, but efforts to get North Korea back to the negotiating table gained some momentum last year.
Last week, North Korea announced for the first time that the U.S. had offered to resume food aid if the North halts its uranium-enrichment program, criticizing America for "politicizing" food aid.
The North appeared to keep the door open for further talks with the U.S. on food aid, saying Pyongyang will "wait and see" whether Washington has a willingness to build "trust."
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2012/01/16/73/0401000000AEN20120116002100315F.HTML
1. Areva Denies Plans to Buy Stake in Urenco for Now
(for personal use only)
French nuclear group Areva on Wednesday denied having any plans to buy a stake in Urenco for the time being, reacting to media reports flagging its interest in the UK-based uranium enrichment company.
Urenco is owned by German utilities RWE (RWEG.DE) and E.ON (EONGn.DE), which jointly hold 33 percent, as well as the Dutch and British governments, which each have one-third of the company's equity.
The timing is not ideal for Areva as it is cutting investments and selling assets to shore up its balance sheet as the world's biggest nuclear reactor builder tries to weather a plunge in demand in an industry still reeling from Japan's Fukushima disaster.
Earlier this month, a Dutch newspaper wrote that Areva had asked bank Nomura to look into acquiring a stake while a source told Reuters that the Dutch government had appointed Credit Suisse (CSGN.VX) to advise on a potential sale.
Britain has been seeking to dispose of its 33 percent stake for several years.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/11/us-areva-idUSTRE80A0H720120111
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