1. Iran Hints at Possible New Delay in Atom Power Plant's Operation
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Iran's first nuclear power plant will become fully operational by early 2013, its energy minister was quoted as saying, more than two months after Russia said it was up and running normally following decades of delay.
The plant near the town of Bushehr on Iran's Gulf coast is a symbol of what Tehran says is its peaceful nuclear ambitions. The West suspects the Islamic Republic is seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability and imposed tough sanctions on it.
However, the Bushehr reactor is not considered a serious proliferation threat by nuclear inspectors. Their main concern is focused on sites where Iran enriches nuclear fuel, in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding it stop.
The reason for the apparent discrepancy on the status of Bushehr was not made clear in the comments by Energy Minister Najid Namjou, in a report carried by the English-language Iran Daily on Thursday, or whether it meant any new delay for the Russian-built complex.
Russian builder NIAEP - part of state nuclear corporation Rosatom - last month said that 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.
It was plugged into Iran's national grid in September 2011, apparently ending a protracted delay and suspicions that Moscow was using the project as a diplomatic lever. In August this year, Rosatom said it was fully operational.
Namjou was quoted in a report by Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency, published by Iran Daily, as saying the 1,000-megawatt plant would go "into operation with maximum power generation capacity" within the next two months.
"The final tests of the Bushehr nuclear power plant have been conducted," he added. Russian officials were not immediately available for comment on the report.
Last month, NIAEP director Valery Limarenko was quoted as saying by Russia's Interfax news agency: "We have taken a series of important technical engineering decisions which ... show that in order to do everything in a quality way, we have changed the (date of) the handover." He gave no details.
Iran, one of the world's biggest oil producers, says electricity generation to serve a rapidly growing population is the main motivation for its nuclear activity, which adversaries say is really aimed at developing the means to make atom bombs.
Bushehr's construction was started by Germany's Siemens before the 1979 Islamic Revolution and was taken over by Russian engineers in the 1990s.
The United States for years urged Russia - one of six world powers seeking a diplomatic solution to the decade-old standoff over Iran's nuclear programme - to abandon the project, fearing it could help Tehran develop nuclear weapons.
Those concerns were eased by an agreement under which Russia will supply enriched uranium for Bushehr and repatriate spent fuel that could be reprocessed into weapons-grade plutonium.
Refined uranium can be used to fuel power plants - Iran's stated purpose - or provide the explosive core of a nuclear bomb if processed further, which the West fears is the ultimate aim.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/08/iran-nuclear-bushehr-idUSL5E8M8CZ220121108
2. Obama Victory Opens Negotiating Window with Iran
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The re-election of U.S. President Barack Obama could create an opportunity for new negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program as sanctions pile economic pressure on its theocratic leaders. With no more elections to fight, Obama, who has so far resisted calls in the United States and Israel for military action against Iran, appears free to pursue a diplomatic settlement while wielding the threat of yet heavier commercial penalties if Tehran does not bend.
"Obama has prepared the ground very carefully and has the option of trying to cut some kind of a deal on the nuclear issue, and that's worth a lot to him," said Gary Sick, an Iran expert and former U.S. national security official.
Last month the White House said the option of bilateral talks with Iran, with whom Washington has not had diplomatic relations for three decades, was under consideration.
Western powers and Israel accuse Iran of secretly preparing to build nuclear weapons while working on a program that Tehran insists is purely designed for civil purposes.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said in a television interview on Wednesday that the Jewish state would not oppose talks between the United States and Iran within strict parameters.
"If the U.S. decides to talk with Iran over a limited and relatively short period only in order to ascertain if it is possible to get it to stop its nuclear program, we will have nothing to say about this," Barak told Channel 10.
"But if there is an attempt (by Iran) to drag (the talks) out over many months or a year, then it could be detrimental and it could lead to a form of tension," he added.
Tehran's reaction to Obama's re-election was predictably critical and warned that Washington should not expect to establish a new relationship with Tehran quickly: "After all this pressure and crimes against the people of Iran, relations with America cannot be possible overnight, and Americans should not think they can hold our nation to ransom by coming to the negotiating table," judiciary head Sadeq Larijani said.
But there are indications Iran's leadership views Obama's continued presence as preferable to the arrival of Romney, who some saw as more likely to cooperate with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a possible military strike on Iran.
"Obama's people are a known quantity. Iran's leaders know Obama has held the Israelis back from launching a military attack," said Scott Lucas of the EA Worldview news website, which specialises in covering Iran. "They didn't know what they were getting with Romney, and they were a little fearful."
In a revealing speech in Tehran last week, Iran's former envoy to Paris and the United Nations, Sadeq Kharrazi, praised Obama for his efforts in "reducing tensions between Islam and the West" and trying to "move closer to Iran".
Obama started his presidency in 2009 with diplomatic overtures to Tehran, but successive rounds of sanctions imposed by Washington and the European Union have cut Iranian oil revenues and sharpened quarrels between factions.
"Obama was a tough president for Iran's hardliners, because he exposed them as the problem. His ... efforts to engage Iran accentuated Tehran's internal divisions and created greater international unity," said Karim Sadjadpour, associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
His administration now has a window to pursue talks with Iran, though campaigning for next year's Iranian presidential election could close it down again in a few months time.
Talks are expected to resume between Iran and the P5+1 group - the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany - in November or December after the process stalled in June, and there have been signs that Iran's most powerful figure, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, may be ready to move forward.
Negotiations have focused on conditions under which Iran might hold back its enrichment of uranium.
"The chances of getting negotiations up and running are much better with Obama, and he's likely to go for that," said one Western diplomat based in Tehran. "The clock is ticking and we need to get it sorted. If the Iranians are looking for a way to climb down, this is a good chance."
Nonetheless, there is deep mistrust all round. Washington and its allies accuse Iranian negotiators of playing for time to further their programme and strengthen their position. Iran has accused the West of double standards by negotiating while imposing further punitive measures.
"In the past Iran has made steps towards rapprochement, and the Americans have retaliated by increasing sanctions," said Mohammad Marandi of Tehran University. "There is explicit anger over the attempts to wreck the economy and prevent imports of foodstuffs and medicine, which hurts ordinary people."
Many blame sanctions for the economic plight of Iran, which has been all but isolated from the international banking system, but they also point the finger at President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for failed economic policies. Some Iranians expressed relief that Obama secured a second term.
"We hate the policies of the U.S. and Israel, but Obama's policies are wiser. The only chance we have for the situation not to get worse was an Obama victory," said Tehran filmmaker Amin, one of several Iranians contacted by Reuters from Dubai.
Many had feared that under Romney the risk of being attacked would have risen and that Washington would have intervened in the Middle East as it did under Obama's Republican predecessor George W. Bush. Among them was 32-year-old dissident journalist Mira.
"Iranians believe war would be destructive and would catapult the region two or three decades back," she said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/07/us-usa-campaign-iran-opportunity-idUSBRE8A61P920121107
3. Iran to Take Part in Talks on Nuclear-Free Middle East
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Tehran has been embroiled in a long stand-off with world powers over allegations, which it denies, that it is seeking to develop the means to produce nuclear weapons.
No date has yet been set for the meeting in the Finnish capital later this year to discuss banning atomic arms and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the volatile Middle East and there are doubts over whether it will take place.
Even if it does go ahead - Israel, believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, has yet to say whether it will attend - Western diplomats expect little progress soon.
Iran used a seminar in Brussels attended also by officials from Israel- its arch-enemy - to announce it would be at the Helsinki meeting.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran now finally has decided to participate at the conference...on a Middle East (nuclear) free zone," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told reporters.
Soltanieh said Iran was "determined to participate actively" in the Helsinki conference, which he said could pave the way for a world free of nuclear weapons.
Iran and Arab states often say Israel's presumed nuclear arsenal poses a threat to Middle East peace and security.
The Jewish state and Western powers see Iran as the region's main nuclear proliferation threat.
"We are of the strong belief that all countries should be mobilising themselves to make sure that this noble goal of a Middle East free from all the weapons of mass destruction will be realised," Soltanieh said.
The invitation-only seminar organised by think-tanks that Soltanieh attended in Brussels was aimed at promoting efforts to hold the Helsinki meeting.
Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, said Jeremy Issacharoff, deputy director-general for strategic affairs in the ministry, was also at the seminar but that there were no contacts between the Israeli and Iranian delegates.
"This was a professional seminar, which naturally involved delegations from various countries including Israel. Our delegation was made up of counter-proliferation specialists, but no one of a senior statecraft capacity," he said.
Iran has held years of on-off negotiations with Western powers over its nuclear programme, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes but which the West suspects is aimed at developing a nuclear weapons option.
Israel, the only regional state not to belong to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has said it would sign the NPT and renounce atomic arms only as part of a broader peace deal with Arab states and Iran that guaranteed its security.
Israel has never confirmed or denied having nuclear weapons under a policy of ambiguity aimed at deterrence and, like the United States, has not ruled out military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Soltanieh made clear his country would raise the issue of Israel's nuclear capabilities in Helsinki. "We cannot tolerate the situation...that Israel is outside of the NPT, has a nuclear weapon capability," he said.
Ali Vaez, Iran expert at the International Crisis Group think-tank, said two goals lay behind Iran's decision to take part in the Helsinki conference.
"Iran is aiming to hit two birds with one stone: reject the notion that it is a nuclear outlier, and paint Israel as the only nuclear outcast in the region," he said.
Daryl Kimball, of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, a research and advocacy group, said a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction was a daunting and distant goal but the time to begin work towards it was now.
Israeli leaders could use the Helsinki meeting to "highlight the need for a balanced approach and action on overdue steps that verifiably curtail the WMD potential of its neighbours, including the threats posed by Syria's chemical arsenal, Iran's uranium-enrichment programme, and more," he said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/06/iran-nuclear-meeting-idUSL5E8M6DJI20121106
1. N. Korea Ready to Conduct Nuke, Missile Tests: Minister
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South Korea's defence minister said Thursday that North Korea has completed preparations for another nuclear test, and would also test-launch long-range missiles sometime in the future.
"Many preparations have been made for a third nuclear test," Kim Kwan-Jin told reporters, adding the timing would depend on "a political decision".
The communist country carried out nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
Kim also predicted that the North would make another attempt at some time to test-fire a long-range missile, after the failure of its rocket launch in April.
Pyongyang said its intention was to put a peaceful research satellite into orbit, while Washington and its allies saw the exercise as a disguised test of banned ballistic missile technology.
In September, US website 38 North said satellite imagery showed the North had halted work at a site capable of launching intercontinental missiles, possibly setting the project back by up to two years.
The website of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies said the cause of the work stoppage was unclear, although heavy rain might be a factor. The new launch pad, being built in the northeast of the country, had been scheduled for completion around 2015, it said.
Even if completion is delayed, Pyongyang could still test longer-range rockets at a northwestern base, the website said.
Satellite images showed "refurbishment" under way on an existing mobile launch pad used to test long-range rockets, it said.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jApLaVO1ro9wx7uNjKrEao4gt0_w?docId=CNG.44812d2777ad9e9a276591da59e25b01.e1
1. Japan Utility Seeks More Funds for Nuclear Crisis
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The Japanese operator of the nuclear power plant devastated in last year's disasters is seeking more government financial support, saying the cost of the cleanup could be double the 5 trillion yen ($62.5 billion) allocated so far.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. made the appeal in a management "action plan" it presented Wednesday.
TEPCO, its finances wrecked by the accident at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant in northeastern Japan and the closures of other nuclear plants, has received a 1 trillion yen bailout and was put under government ownership.
Pressed repeatedly for an estimate of exactly how much it will cost to decommission the crippled plant and pay costs for decontamination and damages, TEPCO president Naomi Hirose said it was impossible to know.
But in a statement, the company outlined two potential scenarios, one involving costs of some 10 trillion yen ($125 billion) that it said would make it difficult for TEPCO to raise funding from private lenders and oblige it to seek further government financial support.
The massive earthquake and tsunami in March last year severely damaged four reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant north of Tokyo, knocking out cooling systems and triggering radiation leaks. Tens of thousands of people fled their homes in the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl.
Officials say the plant has since stabilized, but it runs on makeshift equipment, causing concerns about its ability to withstand any major earthquakes. TEPCO officials say it will take about 40 years to fully decommission the wrecked reactors, a huge financial burden in addition to the astronomical compensation payments.
Including the bailout, the government has injected 2.5 trillion yen ($31.3 billion) into TEPCO and allocated at least 5 trillion yen for compensation for the disaster and decontamination.
On Wednesday, company executives outlined plans to revitalize TEPCO by cutting costs and making it competitive, arguing that in the long run, keeping the company as a public utility would run counter to the government's strategy of increasing competitiveness in the power sector.
The company, which serves the Tokyo region and is the world's fourth largest electrical utility, has raised electricity rates and sold assets to help staunch its flood of red ink.
TEPCO last week reported a 299.5 billion yen ($3.7 billion) loss in April-September, compared with losses of 627.3 billion a year earlier. It forecast a 45 billion yen ($563 million) loss for the fiscal year ending March 31, down from its earlier estimate of a 160 billion yen ($2 billion) loss.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hV3r6ML7e-3fIsPDl0X9cUaHLG8w?docId=d42e9cd720bb492bacdd816d6b7b5c6a
2. Members of Nuclear Regulation Authority Took Money from Utilities, Manufacturers
Japan Daily Press
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Four members of Japan’s newly established Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), an organization formed to be more independent from the nation’s government and utility companies that manage nuclear reactors after last year’s Fukushima disaster, have been discovered as accepting large amount of money from those that benefit from the promotion of nuclear energy. The most obvious question this raises is how neutral the organization really is, but honestly, after the discovery of how much collusion went on leading to the Fukushima crisis, the only real surprise is that it’s merely four people.
On Friday, the NRA stated that Akio Yamamoto, a professor at Nagoya University, has been paid 27.14 million yen (approx. $337,500) over the last three years for his so-called research on nuclear reactors. This includes 6.28 million yen ($78,000) from one of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s subsidiaries. TEPCO, of course, is the utility responsible for operating and managing the tsunamiuck Fukushima plant. Three other members of the six-person authority have also received money from utility companies or those that manufacture nuclear reactors. To receive such funds isn’t illegal, but makes it clear that the NRA may be so neutral when its members are receiving funds from an industry that would benefit from less scrutiny.
To be fair, this information wasn’t uncovered by an outside investigation, but rather the NRA asked its members to voluntarily admit any such payments, in an effort to be more transparent. Osaka University professor Akira Yamaguchi has been paid roughly 10 million yen ($124,000), with 3 million yen ($37,000) from nuclear plant builder Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. NRA chief Shunichi Tanaka has been under heavy criticism for his pro-nuclear stance in the past, working for the government in promoting the use of nuclear energy before March 2011.
The NRA was formed this year as result of public protest against Japan’s continued use of nuclear power and for a stricter, more independent industry watchdog. The previous organization responsible for such tasks was operated by the same government ministry that promoted nuclear energy. But with this revelation calling the new authority’s neutrality into question so soon, is there anyway they can be viewed with credibility at this point? Can the Japanese public really trust an organization that was established on the principles of being independent from both the government and nuclear industry when its members have directly been given money from the latter?
Available at: http://japandailypress.com/members-of-nuclear-regulation-authority-took-money-from-utilities-manufacturers-0417796
3. U.S. Needs Japan to Remain Nuclear, Expert Says
The Japan Times
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A "zero-nuclear" Japan will be a serious concern for the United States as its key ally both from economic and security standpoints, the chief of an influential U.S. think tank said at a recent seminar on Japan-U.S. relations.
The policy set out in September by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Cabinet seeking to phase out nuclear power generation in Japan by the end of the 2030s — in response to strong anti-nuclear sentiments in the country following the triple meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011 — is not viable given Japan's vast economic needs, said John Hamre, president and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Hamre, a former deputy U.S. defense secretary, and his CSIS colleague Michael Green were speaking at a seminar organized by the Keizai Koho Center on Oct. 25 to discuss American policy on East Asia ahead of the U.S. presidential election as well as the imminent change in leadership in China.
Nuclear power generation in Japan over the past four decades has been an important part of Japan's economic success that provided "a strong, reliable supply of base energy" for the historically energy-poor country, Hamre said.
While he said he understood that the Fukushima crisis shook people's confidence in nuclear power — just as the 1979 Three Mile Island incident did for Americans — he noted there is "too much of a romantic idea about alternative energy in this country as a substitute for nuclear power."
The Democratic Party of Japan-led government's policy does not include a specific road map to achieve the goal, but assumes that renewable sources like wind and solar power will account for a greater portion of the nation's energy mix in coming decades.
Citing U.S. experience in wind and solar power generation, Hamre said the low efficiency and output of these sources that rely on natural conditions will not "replace the base capacity of nuclear power generation."
Japan will also face a huge cost disadvantage if it is going to turn more to natural gas as a source of power generation, he said. While in the U.S., where the so-called shale revolution in recent years has dramatically changed the energy industry structure, natural gas today costs $2.60 per million BTU, Japan is paying $14 per million BTU, he pointed out.
"You're paying five times as much for natural gas. So if you're going to make the decision that you're only going to have natural gas-fired electric generation plants, you're going to encumber your economy with energy costs five times higher than the competition," Hamre said. "There can't be any romanticism about alternative energy. If you're going to be a modern, sophisticated economy, you have to address this question of making nuclear power a legitimate source of energy."
Hamre also said the policy poses a security concern from the viewpoint of international control for nonproliferation of nuclear materials.
"Nuclear power from the very beginning was (not only) a source of promise, but (also) a source of great threat because nuclear power electric generation is also the base for making nuclear weapons, and it's a great risk to the world to have commercial nuclear power plants because there is a possibility of diverting the material and turning it into weapons.
"So for the last 40 years the U.S. and Japan, along with Europe, have been leaders in creating an international system to monitor and control the use of commercial nuclear energy so that we know if people were illegitimately going to divert it and turn it into weapons," he said.
If Japan is to give up nuclear energy — and if nuclear power is to wither in the U.S. due to competition with cheap natural gas and in Europe as in the case of Germany — "the countries that have given us the security system are going to diminish, and who's going to replace them?" he said. "Americans cannot afford from a security standpoint to have Japan abandon nuclear power. It's too important to us."
Hamre said the March 11, 2011, earthquake caused triple tragedies — the tsunami that resulted in the loss of thousands of lives, the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns and the loss of public confidence in the government. "Citizens right now do not believe the government can protect them and they don't have any confidence the government can provide safe nuclear power," he said.
"But if you're going to stay a rich and prosperous country, and if you're going to help provide a global system of security, we've got to rebuild confidence that the government can indeed protect citizens and it can oversee this industry and make sure that it's safe and reliable," he added.
Green, a senior vice president for Asia who holds the Japan Chair at the CSIS, discussed the prospect of American policy toward East Asia in the wake of the U.S. election and the shakeup of Chinese leadership in the Communist Party congress.
The importance that the U.S. attaches to its alliance with Japan as a cornerstone of post-Cold War security in the Asia-Pacific region is supported by a strong bipartisan consensus that has been carried on through three administrations since President Bill Clinton, said Green, a former special adviser to President George W. Bush on national security affairs.
The race between President Barack Obama and Republican contender Mitt Romney has highlighted some differences in domestic policy and tone on economic issues, but no major difference has emerged between them on foreign policy, he said.
"One can expect strong continuity" in U.S. policy toward Asia, particularly on Japan, he noted. Romney, if elected, is not going to change America's shift in emphasis toward Asia, and will likely continue the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations, Green said, adding that Obama is also committed to completing the TPP talks.
Xi Jinping, who is expected to replace Hu Jintao as Chinese president in the upcoming party congress, will be the first post-Deng Xiaoping leader of China in the sense that, unlike Hu and Jiang Zemin, he had not been handpicked by the late Deng for promotion to the party leadership, Green said.
Still, Xi is likely to basically take over Deng's worldview that has been carried on by his predecessors, and will continue to view U.S. relations as important, he noted.
In fact, "Xi is going to be very preoccupied with domestic affairs" where huge numbers of protests take place each year, Green said. "China spends a lot of money on its defense now, and that budget is rapidly growing, but in fact China spends more money on domestic security inside the country, which reflects that the real insecurity is domestic, not foreign," he observed.
Some of the nationalistic statements that Xi has made so far, including a speech he made in Mexico in 2009, "was not a message for the world but to the domestic audience to show that he could push back foreign criticism," he pointed out.
With his background as a former party chief in Fujian Province, Xi "has a very good understanding of maritime issues and will be persistent in China's maritime and territorial claims," he said.
When Xi visited the U.S. last year as vice president, Obama made it clear that the U.S. has a stake in China's success and development, Green said. Still, there are "some serious problems in China relations that are expected to complicate things," including its military buildup and apparent pursuit of an ability to "constrain the U.S. from entering or intervening in crises in the waters near China," he noted.
The 2010 collision of Japan's Coast Guard ship and a Chinese fishing boat near the Senkaku Islands "is not an isolated incident" but a part of China's geostrategy on territorial disputes that has seen 22 incidents involving Chinese government ships and local navy or coast guard ships in the region over the past two years, Green said.
Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nb20121103d1.html
1. EON to Boost Swedish Nuclear Reactor Output Through April
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EON AG, Germany’s biggest utility, plans to return idled nuclear reactors in Sweden to service, boosting output from November to April.
The 1,400-megawatt Oskarshamn-3 reactor, the country’s biggest, is scheduled to operate throughout the winter, Roger Strandahl, a company spokesman, said today by phone from Malmoe, Sweden. The 473-megawatt Oskarshamn-1 plant is set to resume output on Nov. 12 after being idle for more than a year, according to the spokesman.
Electricity prices jumped in the past three winters, reaching a peak of 134.80 euros ($172.34) a megawatt-hour on Feb. 21 2010 on the Nord Pool Spot AS exchange in Oslo, as more than 20 percent of Sweden’s atomic output halted during periods of cold weather and peakload demand, Olav Botnen, senior analyst at Markedskraft AS, said by phone from Arendal, Norway, on Oct. 4.
“We expect higher output this winter as we have drawn lessons from complex reactor upgrades in the past few winters,” Strandahl said. The nation meets half of its electricity demand from atomic plants.
Meanwhile Fortum Oyj (FUM1V), Finland’s biggest utility, which holds a 45.5 percent stake in the Oskarshamn plants and also has a stake in three reactors in Forsmark, expects Swedish utilization rates to rise above 90 percent after 2015, Goran Hult, vice president of research and development, said by phone from Stockholm.
The Forsmark units had a utilization rate of 71.8 percent in 2010, compared with 56 percent for Oskarshamn, and 91 percent for Fortum’s Loviisa reactors in Finland.
“We’ve pooled our rich nuclear competence and know-how from Finland and tried to apply it to operations in Sweden,” Hult said. “The worst is definitely behind us when it comes to low output rates from Swedish nuclear reactors.”
Only the 473-megawatt Oskarshamn-1 reactor may face a “comparatively low” operating rate in the future, due to its turbine features, he said, without elaborating.
The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority has yet to decide whether to extend the operating license for the 638-megawatt Oskarshamn-2 reactor from January through May, Jan Hanberg, section head at the regulator, said by phone from Stockholm on Nov. 1. The extension is at risk after the company failed to complete a safety upgrade on time. Fortum company says output through April will be higher than in past winters, since it expects the watchdog to give approval.
Vattenfall AB, Sweden’s biggest utility, expects to boost output at its Forsmark and Ringhals reactors from November through March, Mats Ladeborn, director of nuclear development, said by phone from Stockholm on Oct. 23.
Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-11-05/eon-to-boost-swedish-nuclear-reactor-output-through-april
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Ting Shou-chung and Chiu Wen-yen yesterday urged the government to replace nuclear power with liquified natural gas (LNG) and to halt the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District in a bid to prevent nuclear disaster.
Ting said it is a pity that although the legislature’s Economic Committee passed a resolution last week asking state-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower), which runs the country’s nuclear power plants, to convert the plant into one that runs on LNG, Ministry of Economic Affairs officials and Taipower have yet to carry out the resolution, and instead have told the public that the shift could raise electricity rates and lead to power rationing.
Ting said the ongoing construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant has required additional investment several times and total investment has amounted to about NT$280 billion (US$9.6 billion) so far. The project still requires an additional NT$56.3 billion, he said.
Saying that electricity generated from the plant would only account for 7 percent of the nation’s total electricity, Ting said that LNG-generated electricity would only cost NT$0.2 per kilowatt-hour more than the NT$2.4 per kilowatt hour price of nuclear generated electricity, and also free the public from possible nuclear disasters.
Chiu added that doubts remain over the safety of the plants.
The first, second and fourth nuclear plants are close not only to Taipei and New Taipei City — which are home to more than 5 million people — but also to geological faults and shorelines, which makes them vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis, he said.
While Taipower has said it will seek a review by the World Association of Nuclear Operators before the fourth plant begins operating, Chiu said the credibility of the association has been called into question by the nuclear disaster in Japan last year.
Given the example of the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident and the millions living near the three northern nuclear power plants, Chiu said “we should reconsider a withdrawal mechanism ... if the plant is unsafe, we should prioritize the safety of the public and quit the project.”
Ting said he will seek cross-party support to establish an ad hoc legislative committee to strengthen oversight of the country’s nuclear safety.
Available at: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2012/11/05/2003546939
China, which has undertaken a big expansion of nuclear power generation, has been boosted by the discovery of a large uranium deposit in the northern regions.
The mine, ranking as the country's largest leaching sandstone-type uranium deposit identified so far, was found in central Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, state-run Xinhua quoted an announcement by the Ministry of Land and Resources as saying today.
The discovery, which makes the site one of the world's top uranium mines, has great significance for boosting domestic uranium supplies and ensuring energy sources for developing nuclear power, the ministry said, without elaborating on the mine's size.
The site was discovered along with a "super-size" coal mine, the reserve of which was estimated at 51 billion tonnes, the ministry said.
The discovery underlines the country's efforts to promote combined exploration of coal and uranium in a bid to save investment, it said.
A 500ong team consisting of technicians and constructors from nuclear power companies and related government departments has been deployed in the 10-month exploration after the site was tested for radioactivity during drilling.
In 2008, China discovered its first 10,000-ton level leaching sandstone-type uranium deposit in the Yili basin in the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
China, a major importer of uranium recently said it has given green signal to resume construction of a small number of the 40 new nuclear plants, lifting a ban after Fukoshima disaster.
China also has an elaborate nuclear weapons programme.
Available at: http://www.business-standard.com/generalnews/news/china-sayslarge-uranium-mine-discovered/75798/
4. New Nuke Reactor to Go into Operation Next Year
Yonhap News Agency
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South Korea's newest power-generating nuclear reactor will likely begin commercial operation during the first half of next year after being loaded with fuel rods this month, its builder said Sunday.
The Shin (New) Wolsong 2 reactor, located about 370 kilometers southeast of Seoul, will be ready to be put into commercial operation in May of next year following a seven-month trial run. Samsung C&T Corp. said.
"After loading with 177 fuel rods, the reactor is expected to go into full operation next year," said an official at Samsung C&T Corp., which is in charge of building the 1 million kilowatt nuclear reactor.
The Shin-Wolsong 1 reactor, also located in the city, went into commercial operation on July 31, but its operation was stopped only 19 days after went fully operative due to a malfunction. No radiation leakage has been reported.
Samsung C&T said it raised the level of safety checks on the new reactor to take into account heightened concerns about nuclear safety following an accident in Japan's Fukushima reactor last year.
Recently, an aging power-generating nuclear reactor, Reactor-1 at the Wolsong Nuclear Power Plant, came to a halt due to a technical problem, spawning worries about restarting the reactor. Its life span had been due to end this month.
South Korea operates 23 nuclear reactors that supply about 30 percent of the country's total electricity consumption.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/business/2012/11/04/42/0501000000AEN20121104003400320F.HTML
Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas has criticized Areva over the French company's failed nuclear tender bid because state-owned CEZ now had no "strong" European option left for the tender.
His comments to daily Hospodarske Noviny were the first from the government after CEZ announced in October that it had disqualified Areva, saying the company failed to meet both legal and business criteria and leaving only Toshiba's U.S. unit Westinghouse and Russia's Atomstroyexport to contest the deal.
The Czech government, which owns a 70-percent stake in CEZ, is closely following bids for the European Union nation's largest ever public tender that could be worth more than $10 billion.
"Areva has fatally failed, much to our anger," Necas said. "They made such errors that it made it impossible for CEZ to proceed in a different way."
"We really wanted to have a strong European solution in the contest. Areva is not willing to admit to itself that it wrongly picked the team that worked on the bid," Necas told the paper.
Areva, which could not immediately be reached for comment, has called for a suspension of the bidding process after its appeal was rejected, saying it believed that its offer is compliant with statutory requirements and has been misunderstood in many respects.
The Czech nuclear energy push has ran into opposition in neighbors Austria and Germany, but is the cornerstone of a government drive to secure its energy future.
Russia is already a major oil, gas and nuclear fuel supplier for the ex-Soviet nation of 10.5 million, giving CEZ a stark choice between east and west in the tender. A winner should be picked by the end of next year.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/02/us-cez-areva-idUSBRE8A10D120121102
With Barack Obama re-elected the President of the US, the Indian nuclear industry and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) officials hope the continuity in the administration would boost nuclear cooperation between the two countries.
Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd (NPCIL) is already in talks with US companies such as GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Westinghouse Electric Co for the supply of nuclear reactors for India’s ongoing nuclear capacity addition programme. The status quo in Washington will boost these talks as well, say industry officials.
GE-Hitachi, a joint venture between General Electric Co and Japan's Hitachi Ltd, is in preliminary talks with NPCIL for the initial supply of two reactors of 1,500 Megawatts (Mw) and subsequently for four more for the proposed nuclear project in Andhra Pradesh. On the other hand, Westinghouse has initiated talks with NPCIL for the initial supply of two reactors of 1,100 Mw and later four more for the a plant in Gujarat.
However, industry players are of the view that India's civil nuclear liability regime would continue to be a matter of concern as suppliers from India and abroad have raised serious objections against various provisions.
"With Obama's re-election, the political continuity will be there. As far as negotiations between NPCIL and US companies are concerned, they are one-to-one and DAE is not directly involved. However, inter-governmental agreements between the US and India are in place," S K Malhotra, a spokesperson for DAE, told Business Standard.
According to M V Kotwal, president, heavy engineering, Larsen and Toubro, Obama's re-election would ensure continuity in the efforts being put in by American and Indian governments in enabling implementation of the civil nuclear agreement and in sorting out matters related to export of technology from the US.
"As far as the issue of civil nuclear liability is concerned, I hope some way forward is worked out soon since it affects participation in projects by industries both within and outside India," he added.
G R Srinivasan, former vice-chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, said that with Obama's re-election, the civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries would continue.
"As far as India's civil nuclear liability is concerned, there is a need for a political consensus. A balance can be struck whereby industry is protected and also the interest of victims are taken care of," noted Srinivasan, who is adviser to GMR Energy on nuclear business.
Available at: http://business-standard.com/india/news/n-reactor-supply-talks-expected-to-getboost/492054/
2. India, Canada Conclude Talks on Uranium Sales, Harper Says
Andrew Mayeda and Christopher Donville
(for personal use only)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada concluded negotiations with India to export uranium and other nuclear supplies for civilian use.
The two countries completed talks on an administrative agreement that will enable Canadian companies such as Cameco Corp. (CCO) to sell nuclear materials, equipment and technology to the world’s 10th-largest economy, according to a statement released by Harper’s office today.
“Certainly we can see the future now,” Tim Gitzel, chief executive officer of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based Cameco, said today in a telephone interview. “With the Indians building reactors the way they are, this is going to be a long-term game.”
India and Canada must still sign the deal for it to take effect. It will allow them to implement a cooperation pact Harper and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed in 2010. Harper met Singh today in New Delhi as part of a six-day trip to India.
Exports of Canadian uranium to India, which also has nuclear warheads, have been held up by disagreement over how the commodity should be tracked.
Canada has asked the fuel to be traced through a system used in similar deals it has with other countries. India has said such measures aren’t necessary because it already complies with standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
A committee of Canadian and Indian officials will ensure exports are used for peaceful purposes, according to the statement released today.
As of last month, India had 20 operable nuclear reactors, compared with China’s 15 and Canada’s 18, according to data from the World Nuclear Association. India also has seven reactors under construction and plans to build a further 18, the data show.
“If they’re building now, they’re going to need uranium for those reactors for the next 30, 40, 50 years,” Cameco’s Gitzel said. “We’ll see the benefits of an agreement in long- term supply contracts.”
Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-11-06/india-canada-conclude-talks-to-allow-uranium-sales-harper-says
The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog says nuclear power is safer than before the 2011 meltdown crisis started at the Fukushima No. 1 atomic plant, now that countries have upped preparedness for natural disasters.
Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in a statement to a U.N. General Assembly meeting Monday that "measures have been taken to improve protection against extreme hazards such as earthquakes and tsunami."
Amano said the IAEA projects a steady increase in nuclear power plants in the next 20 years, with China, India, South Korea and Russia having planned "significant expansions" of their atomic programs.
On North Korea's nuclear arms program, the IAEA chief said he remains "seriously concerned" and called Pyongyang's statements about uranium enrichment activities "deeply troubling.
Pyongyang's delegation criticized the IAEA as siding with "the U.S. hostilities toward" North Korea and "following blindly" U.S. policy against the North.
It said North Korea, "as everybody knows, has emerged as a full-fledged . . . nuclear weapon state."
Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121108f3.html
2. South Korea Widens Nuclear Lapses Probe; KEPCO Chief Resigns
Meeyoung Cho and Somang Yang
(for personal use only)
South Korea widened a probe into 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.
Two reactors remained shut on Wednesday, and five others are closed for maintenance, or through other glitches, raising the prospect of winter power shortages. The nuclear industry supplies close to a third of South Korea's electricity.
The authorities have stressed that the parts - such as fuses, switches and heat sensors - are non-crucial, and there is no safety risk.
Kim Joong-kyum, president and CEO of power utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO), which owns the operator of the nation's nuclear plants, tendered his resignation for what KEPCO officials said were "personal reasons". The presidential office would decide this weekend whether to accept Kim's resignation, an economy ministry official said.
A second nuclear official, appointed in June after a series of closures at other nuclear plants, also said he would resign once the investigations over the latest lapses were completed.
"I am sorting out what happened in the past. I will resign at any time once this is settled," Kim Kyun-seop, head of Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, the KEPCO subsidiary that runs the country's nuclear industry and reviews equipment certification, told a parliamentary hearing.
KEPCO stock fell 3 percent to its lowest close in a month.
The closure of the two reactors in Yeonggwang county, 300 km (186 miles) southwest of the capital Seoul, and concerns of more widespread potential problems with a large and growing nuclear program, come after last year's nuclear disaster in neighboring Japan.
"Following Fukushima, our residents have become more and more concerned about safety levels at the reactor," said Na Seung-man, who chairs the local council in Yeonggwang.
South Korea's Nuclear Safety & Security Commission said it set up a team of 58 private and public investigators to inspect all the country's reactors to see if they were supplied with parts with forged certificates.
"The team will inspect all 23 reactors, which will take some time, as you can imagine," a spokeswoman for the commission, which supervises nuclear safety, told Reuters. The commission said it plans measures to improve supply systems, quality controls and external auditing.
Eight companies submitted 60 false certificates to cover more than 7,000 parts used in the two reactors between 2003 and 2012, and Economy Minister Hong Suk-woo told parliament that most of the documents, which purported to come from certifying body UCI, were forgeries.
A senior ministry official told Reuters that UCI was one of 12 U.S. certifiers, but was not one of the eight firms under investigation. The firms have not been named.
Public support for nuclear power remains strong in South Korea, even after the Fukushima disaster last year, and Seoul plans to have added another 11 reactors by 2024.
The regulator, however, has come under fire.
"The problem here is that nothing has been done to put in place a system that will allow for oversight, at a time when we need stepped up safety management," opposition legislator Oh Young-sik of the Democratic United Party told parliament.
The investigation had not prompted the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to reconsider its 2009 order for some $20 billion worth of nuclear plant and construction work contracted to a KEPCO-led South Korean consortium, [ID:nL3E8F341H] a spokesman for the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation told Reuters in Dubai.
Also, Byun Jun-yeon, an executive vice president at KEPCO in charge of reactor exports, told Reuters the fraud would not damage the utility's export drive.
"The effects of this development on existing contracts like the UAE will be insignificant," he said. "From what I understand, the parts that were fraudulently certified were not key to the function of the nuclear reactor, rather they were for general usage in non-critical aspects.
"It's an ethical failure."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/07/us-nuclear-korea-idUSBRE8A50KW20121107
3. Russia Calls to Improve IAEA Control over Nuclear Security
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Russia values highly the role, which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is playing in ensuring the non-proliferation regime, but calls for the improvement of the mechanisms of control over its fulfilment," Russian Permanent Representative in the UN Vitaly Churkin said at a session of the UN General Assembly, which is devoted to the IAEA activities, ITAR-TASS reported.
"We call for the improvement of IAEA controlling capabilities, particularly through the approval of an additional protocol to the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA as a generally recognized instrument to inspect, how the countries are fulfilling their nuclear non-proliferation commitments," the Russian permanent representative said. "An unbiased approach to nuclear inspections based on objective indicators is an important element to maintain the legitimacy of the IAEA safeguards system and the nuclear non-proliferation regime in general," he said.
Vitaly Churkin noted "a unique nature of the IAEA inspection mechanism," noting this "makes it possible with a high level of efficiency to supervise how the countries are fulfilling their commitments in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."
IAEA Yukiya Amano said in an address to the participants in a session of the UN General Assembly on Monday that the number of countries, which signed an additional protocol to the IAEA Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, reached 119. This document is a key IAEA instrument that permits the IAEA experts to hold extraordinary inspections at the nuclear sites in various countries, the IAEA general director said.
The Russian permanent representative noted that Russia supports actively the IAEA activities in financial aspect and is directly involved in the efforts to form a global infrastructure of the nuclear industry.
Churkin recalled that the International Uranium Enrichment Centre operates in Russia and the guaranteed reserve of the low enriched uranium is created under the IAEA supervision. "It is already fully formed, the IAEA states, which observe their nuclear non-proliferation commitments, can use it," the Russian diplomat underlined.
Available at: http://en.trend.az/regions/world/russia/2084445.html
The United States is headed toward a major nuclear disaster -- one that could mirror what happened last year in Japan -- unless the government more closely monitors aging power plants, safety advocates and activists said.
"This is like the Titanic that is headed toward an iceberg," said Paul Gunter, the co-founder of the Clamshell Alliance anti-nuclear group and a longtime activist.
Gunter's concern centers on the 23 "Mark I" nuclear reactors in the United States, which are identical to the containment vessels used at Fukushima's Daiichi nuclear power plant, where three reactors failed and went into meltdown in 2011.
With more frequent extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy predicted, whether the facilities, which dot the landscape from New Jersey to Nebraska, could withstand a disaster as forceful as the tsunami in Japan remains unclear.
"Our facilities are responding extremely well," said Steve Kerekes, spokesman of the Nuclear Energy Institute, a policy organization of the nuclear energy said after Hurricane Sandy hit the U.S. East Coast.
He expressed no concerns over the weather challenges faced by aging reactors., saying records showed the facilities in the United States have operated safely in extreme weather.
But some experts said they fear that a nuclear disaster is unfolding in the country.
The small containment leaves Mark I reactor -- the earliest model designed by General Electric Co. -- not as robust as later designs, said Margaret Harding, an independent nuclear consultant who worked for General Electric for 27 years.
Gunter said he worries that the parallels to Japan are too similar to ignore, noting the strain the reactors could be under when there are severe weather conditions.
Tuesday's historic hurricane brought the issue into sharp focus as Oyster Creek nuclear station -- one of the oldest nuclear plants adjacent to the Oyster Creek in New Jersey using Mark I boiling water reactor -- declared an alert because of high water levels. The plant experienced power disruption but backup diesel fuel was able to provide power for cooling.
But experts said if future events become more severe, under-designed protections might fail.
If operators aren't able to connect temporary equipment in flooding, "there's another nuclear disaster," said Dave Lochbaum, director of the nuclear safety program of Union of Concerned Scientists, a nuclear oversight group.
Earlier this month, an un-redacted version of a recently released Nuclear Regulatory Commission report made its way to Greenpeace, the environmental group that couples the Mark 1 safety issues with a concern about geographic adjacencies. The report highlights the threat the NRC sees to power plants close to waterways, especially large dams.
All 23 Mark I reactors are adjacent to waters, some with major cities that have populations in the millions in the potential radioactive contamination zone. Gunter said waves generated by severe weather or a succession of dam breaks could be higher than the water wall caused by the tsunami and lead to a similar station blackout in Japan.
An earthquake April 11, 2011, created a tsunami that struck the Fukushima nuclear power plant and caused a loss of all power at the facility, imperiling the plant's capability to cool down the overheated core.
"Fukushima demonstrated that you can't be without power for a long time," said Gunter, who is also director of Beyond Nuclear, a non-profit in Takoma Park, Md. "But when these [backup] diesel generators are damaged, or the fuels are contaminated, there is very short time before the core damage occurs. It relies on a robust containment, which Mark I doesn't have."
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane said last week at a nuclear safety presentation that the United States is working to better prepare for station blackout and other events triggered by extreme weather.
John Lee, nuclear engineering professor at University of Michigan, said that despite the vulnerable containment, the safety measures in place would make sure Mark I reactors in the United States can survive natural disasters similar to the Fukushima tsunami.
However, a report conducted by Union of Concerned Scientists said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ignores weaknesses in protection regulations. It allows 27 reactors to operate facing earthquakes larger than they are designed to withstand, 47 reactors violating fire protection regulations, including one Mark I plant.
"As long as luck prevents those vulnerabilities from being challenged, it's fine," Lochbaum said. "But if luck runs out, those pre-existing conditions can mean disaster."
Available at: http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2012/11/01/US-nuclear-energy-safety-questioned/UPI-95521351786427/
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