1. Japan Atomic May Have to Decommission Plant as Active Fault Found
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Japan Atomic Power Co. may have to decommission one of its reactors after seismologists concluded the plant is sitting over an active faultline, potentially the first permanent shutdown of a nuclear unit in Japan since the Fukushima disaster last year.
"There is no way we can carry out safety assessments for a restart," the chairman of Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), Shunichi Tanaka, said on Monday at an open meeting after being presented with an assessment there is an active fault under the No. 2 reactor at the Tsuruga nuclear plant.
The government in Japan, one of the world's most seismically active countries, does not allow nuclear plants to be situated over active faultlines. An NRA panel of seismologists has been reviewing geological records and this month visited Tsuruga to watch the results of boring and other tests.
A fault line extending from below the reactor was assessed to have moved in the past in tandem with another nearby fault, Kunihiko Shimazaki, an NRA commissioner who led the seismic panel, told the meeting.
While Tanaka has no authority to order a permanent shutdown, his comment implies he will not allow the reactor to be restarted, forcing a decision on Japan Atomic over whether to mothball the unit.
A Japan Atomic official who attended the meeting said the company would carry out further seismic studies.
The agency will meet at a later date to make an official announcement on the 1,160 megawatt reactor, the larger of two at the plant in western Japan. The No. 2 unit started operating in 1987, while the 357-megawatt No. 1 reactor started in 1970.
The NRA is reviewing possible faultlines under or near Tsuruga and five other nuclear stations as part of moves to beef up safety and Tanaka has said any reactors sitting above won't be allowed to restart.
All but two of Japan's nuclear reactors are idled for safety checks after the Fukushima disaster, forcing the country to spend billions of dollars extra on fossil fuels to run power stations.
An earthquake and tsunami in March last year knocked out cooling and power at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi station north of the Japanese capital, causing the biggest release of radiation since Chernobyl in 1986.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/10/us-japan-nuclear-idUSBRE8B909C20121210
2. Japan Utility Admits Murky Hiring at Nuclear Plant
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The head of the utility behind Japan's nuclear crisis acknowledged Monday that hundreds of workers at the contaminated Fukushima Dai-ichi plant were mobilized through a murky hiring system.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. President Naomi Hirose attributed the hiring problem to high worker turnover at the highly contaminated worksite, adding that the problem became prevalent as the company desperately tried to recruit workers willing to take jobs with high risks of radiation exposure.
The March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami destroyed power and crucial cooling systems at the Fukushima plant, causing multiple meltdowns and contaminating the plant's surroundings. The plant has substantially stabilized since then, but full decommissioning is expected to take decades.
Hirose said TEPCO is working to fix the hiring problem, which he attributed to an industry-wide hierarchical contract system. But he said that the deep-rooted industry practice cannot be changed overnight, and that a full overhaul will be difficult.
"Ideally, it would be best if we reform the contract hiring system and start from there, but it will be extremely time-consuming," Hirose said. "It's a difficult task we cannot do on our own. It will take heavy-duty work. It involves history and business ties, and could even hurt the industry."
In a recent TEPCO survey of some 2,400 contract workers, dozens said they were instructed to falsify affiliations, while some complained they never received a written contract.
In the survey, taken in September and October, about half said they were being paid by different companies than the ones that hired them — an indication of illegal labor contracts. Nearly 90 percent said their employers were ranked from second to fourth in the hierarchy of subcontractors. About one-quarter said their employers never notified them of their radiation exposure details.
The hiring problem has intensified since last year's disaster, and some workers have come forward and complained that their salaries have been siphoned off or allowances not given. Hirose said securing a workforce that can last through decades-long post-disaster operations would be critical to cleanup efforts.
"Decommissioning is a lengthy process of 30 to 40 years, which is long enough for a fresh employee to reach retirement age," he said. "Our staffing is sufficient in the short term, but we may face a difficulty in the long run."
Hirose said TEPCO hopes to invite experts from the United States, Britain and France in coming years to seek technology expertise and support to decommission Fukushima's reactors.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gCZD0jl0Cye9N0jsGnuh3700TKGg?docId=eadaf1cc955d48db82c5205dc93fc334
3. Japan Could Restart Some Nuclear Reactors Next Summer: NRA
The Japan Times
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The secretariat of the Nuclear Regulation Authority may start preliminary safety checks on offline reactors next spring, paving the way for some to be restarted by summer, sources said Thursday. The NRA plans to adopt new safety standards for nuclear plants next July in response to the Fukushima No. 1 meltdown disaster that started in March 2011, while 48 of the nation's 50 commercial reactors remain offline amid safety concerns. The two in operation, started back up in July, are running under tentative standards.
To make safety inspections under the new standards efficient, the secretariat plans to launch preliminary checks next spring when an outline of the new standards becomes available, the sources said.
A bill was passed earlier this year to require all reactors from next July to meet safety standards based on the latest knowledge, before being allowed to restart.
If they fail to meet the standards, they will have to undergo improvements, including modifications as well as construction of additional facilities.
Given the time needed to build new facilities, the NRA has indicated that all necessary improvements would not necessarily have to be completed before the designated reactors are allowed to restart.
The authority, while accepting responsibility for the safety of reactors, added that the government the must be the party that decides which reactors are restarted.
Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121207a4.html
4. No Problems Reported at Japan Nuclear Plants after Quake: U.N. Agency
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A 7.3 magnitude quake centered off northeastern Japan shook buildings as far away as Tokyo and triggered a one-meter tsunami in an area devastated by last year's Fukushima disaster, but there were no reports of deaths or serious damage.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said its Incident and Emergency Centre had been in contact with Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) "to collect information about the status of ... nuclear power plants that could be affected".
"Nuclear power plants in the region nearest to the epicenter of the earthquake have reported to NRA that they have detected no trouble, and that no emergency measures have been activated," Gill Tudor, a spokeswoman for the Vienna-based U.N. agency, said in a statement.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/07/us-nuclear-japan-iaea-idUSBRE8B60M620121207
1. All Safety Aspects of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project Will Be Taken Care of: Narayanasamy
The Times of India
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Government on Sunday maintained that it will ensure all safety aspects of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project are fully taken care of before it is commissioned.
"It is our duty to ensure all the safety (aspects), we will do that with regard to the nuclear plant," minister of state in the PMO, V Narayanasamy told reporters here.
The minister said Atomic Regulatory Board officials were still inspecting the plant. A meeting of the board officials was held on December 3, and order for commencing power generation would be issued before this month-end, he said.
"There is no confusion or delay in commencing generation of power. We are only ensuring all the safety aspects (in KNPP)," the minister asserted.
When asked about the plans of the Peoples Movement Against Nuclear energy, spearheading the stir against the KNPP here, to lay siege to it from the sea, he alleged that foreign forces were behind those who opposed KNPP, and they would be defeated.
With the commissioning of the first unit expected by this month-end, there were reports of anti-nuclear activists planning to lay siege to the facility on Monday to press for scrapping of the project.
Narayanasamy said Union ministers from Tamil Nadu were pressing the government to give the entire quantum of power generated from the first 1,000 MW unit of KNPP to the state, though as per the schedule it should get 465 MW. The rest would be divided among Karnataka, Puducherry and Kerala.
The extra power of 1,600 MW given back to the Central grid by various states could not be brought to Tamil Nadu due to grid congestion, he said.
The minister expressed confidence that the KNPP's second unit would be commissioned before the next three months.
He claimed that the Centre had already given Rs 300 crore to the state for taking up development projects for benefit of people in Kudankulam and Rs 200 crore would be given shortly.
The government was opting for nuclear and solar energy as they were safe, he said.
The regulatory board had granted permission to load fuel in the first unit on August 10 after the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited complied with its conditions.
Commissioning of the first unit of the Indo-Russian project was originally scheduled for December last year but has been delayed due to protests.
Available at: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-12-09/india/35704682_1_knpp-first-unit-kudankulam-nuclear-power-project
2. Nuclear Industry Plans Rescue Wagon for Disasters
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If disaster strikes a nuclear power plant in the U.S., the utility industry wants the ability to fly in heavy-duty equipment that could avert a meltdown.
That capability is part of a larger industry plan being developed to meet new rules that emerged since a 2011 tsunami struck the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan, flooding its emergency equipment and causing nuclear meltdowns that sent radiation leaking into the environment. The tsunami exceeded the worst-case scenario the plant was designed to withstand, and it showed how an extreme, widespread disaster can complicate emergency plans.
The effort, called FLEX, is the nuclear industry's method for meeting new U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules that will force 65 plants in the U.S. to get extra emergency equipment on site and store it protectively. As a backup, the industry is developing regional hubs in Memphis, Tenn., and Phoenix that could truck or even fly in more equipment to stricken reactors. Industry leaders say the effort will add another layer of defense in case a Fukushima-style disaster destroys a nuclear plant's multiple backup systems.
"It became very clear in Japan that utilities became quickly overwhelmed," said Joe Pollock, vice president for nuclear operations at the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry lobbying group that is spearheading the effort.
Nuclear industry watchdogs are concerned that by moving first, the utility industry is attempting to head-off more costly and far-reaching requirements that might otherwise be set by the NRC, which oversees commercial nuclear power plants in the U.S. Plants started buying the new equipment even before NRC regulators approved the concept. Industry officials say they are not certain yet how the equipment would be moved in a crisis.
"That presented essentially facts-on-the-ground for the NRC and essentially gave the industry the upper hand in how this is going to play out," said Edwin Lyman, the senior scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists, who criticized FLEX as a "window-dressing exercise."
U.S. nuclear plants already have backup safety systems and are supposed to withstand the worst possible disasters in their regions, including hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes. But planners can be wrong.
The Japanese utility TEPCO dismissed scientific evidence and geological history showing that the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant was susceptible to being struck by a far bigger tsunami than it said was possible. Dominion Virginia Power's North Anna Power Station was struck by a 2011 tremor that caused peak ground movement at about twice the level for which the plant was designed. It did not suffer major damage and has resumed operations.
The FLEX program is supposed to help nuclear plants handle the biggest disasters. The equipment is meant to assist in the most critical tasks during a crisis: keeping nuclear fuel cool, keeping radioactive barriers intact and making sure old stores of used nuclear fuel don't overheat. If a cooling system fails and nuclear fuel gets too hot, the heat and pressure can rupture a reactor or even cause explosions that send radiation into the environment.
Utility companies must tell federal regulators early next year what equipment they are buying as part of the effort. Those supplies could include portable pumps, generators, batteries and chargers, compressors, hoses, tools and temporary flood barriers, according to industry plans filed with the NRC. Plant operators started buying some of this supplemental equipment to comply with disaster rules stemming from the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The cost for individual plants is not yet clear.
Under the plan, plant operators can summon help from the regional centers in Memphis and Phoenix. Both centers are near transportation hubs and spread out so a single disaster would be unlikely to cripple them both. In addition to having several duplicate sets of plant emergency gear, industry officials say the centers will likely have heavier equipment. That could include an emergency generator large enough to power a plant's emergency cooling systems, equipment to treat cooling water and extra radiation protection gear for workers.
Federal regulators must still decide whether to approve the plans submitted by individual plants. The NRC wants to see enough planning to make sure equipment such as emergency pumps could be transported and effectively used.
"They need to show us not just that they have the pump, but that they've done all the appropriate designing and engineering so that they have a hookup for that pump," NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said. "They're not going to be trying to figure out, 'Where are we going to plug this thing in?'"
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jGDgscO5L4n4qyioQxrzy31BOLAA?docId=b2474c54abc1444f81673ae92a49451a
3. Recent Hacking of UN Nuclear Agency Not First Attempt - IAEA
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A recently announced hacking of the U.N. nuclear agency's computer servers was not the first time an attempt had been made to break into the organization's computer system, the head of the agency said on Thursday.
Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that a few months ago a group broke into the agency's computer system and stole personal information of scientists working on peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
In response to questions at a Council on Foreign Relations event in Washington, Amano repeated what he said last week after the hacking was revealed: no sensitive information about the IAEA's nuclear inspections had been stolen.
The IAEA has shut down the server that had been hacked and is continuing an investigation, Amano said. But he also said it wasn't the first attempt to break into the system.
"If you ask if this is the only case? I would say there have been some other tries but we are doing our best to protect our system," Amano said.
The hackers - a group using an Iranian-sounding name - have posted scores of email addresses of experts who have been working with the U.N. agency on a website, and have urged the IAEA to investigate Israel's nuclear activity.
Israel, which has an undeclared nuclear arsenal, and the United States accuse Iran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran denies such ambitions.
Amano would not say if he believed Iran was behind the attacks on the IAEA, whose missions include preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and which is investigating Iran's disputed nuclear activities.
"The group ... they have what looks like an Iranian name. But that does not mean that the origin is Iran," he said.
There has been an increase in suspected Iranian cyber attacks this year, coinciding with a deepening standoff with the West over Tehran's nuclear program.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/12/06/uk-nuclear-iaea-hacking-idUKBRE8B51EO20121206
1. U.N. Nuclear Inspectors to Press Iran on Military Site Access
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U.N. nuclear inspectors will press Iran this week for a long-sought green light to visit a key military site, although suspected clean-up work may make it difficult to find evidence of any illicit atomic bomb research there.
Thursday's talks in Tehran could provide clues as to whether the Islamic state may now be more willing to start addressing growing international concerns over its disputed atomic activity following U.S. President Barack Obama's re-election last month.
The stakes are high: Israel - widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed power - has threatened military action if diplomacy fails to prevent its arch-foe from acquiring doomsday weaponry. Iran says it would hit back hard if attacked.
But Western diplomats are not optimistic about the chances of a breakthrough in the new discussions in the Iranian capital, after a series of meetings between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this year failed to make headway.
The Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog wants Iran to allow its inspectors to visit sites, interview officials and study documents as part of an IAEA investigation - largely stymied by Iranian stonewalling for four years - into possible military dimensions to the country's nuclear program.
Iran, which rejects accusations of a covert bid to develop the means and technologies needed to develop nuclear arms, says it must first reach a framework agreement with the IAEA on how the inquiry should be done before providing any such access.
"I have no sense that Iran wants an agreement. Iran wants the issue to go away," one Western envoy in the Austrian capital said, predicting "another nothing meeting".
The IAEA's talks with Iran are separate from - but still closely linked to - efforts by six world powers to resolve the decade-long nuclear dispute with Iran before it degenerates into a new war that could send economic shock waves around the world.
Diplomacy between Iran, a major oil exporter, and the United States, China, Russia, France, Germany, and Britain has been deadlocked since a June meeting that ended without success.
Both sides now say they want to resume talks soon - after Obama's re-election which some analysts say may give fresh impetus to the search for a negotiated settlement - and diplomats expect a new meeting early next year.
Iran has faced a tightening of Western trade sanctions which the United States and its allies hope will force the Islamic Republic to curb its uranium enrichment program.
Tehran says its aims are entirely peaceful but is showing no sign of backing down, instead signaling continued defiance by rapidly expanding its capacity to refine uranium, which can fuel nuclear power plants but also provide material for bombs.
The powers also want Iran to cooperate with the IAEA to clear up suspicions of past, and possibly still ongoing, activities relevant for the development of nuclear bombs.
The IAEA's priority is to examine the sprawling Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran, where it believes Iran has carried out explosives tests with nuclear applications.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano last week said the agency still wanted to go to Parchin, despite what Western officials say are apparent Iranian efforts to "sanitize" the site, including demolition of buildings, tearing down of fences and a removal of soil that has been replaced with new dirt.
"I cannot guarantee that we can find something or not. But I continue to believe that having access is very useful to have a better understanding of past and current activities at Parchin," Amano said in Washington, according to a transcript.
Tehran says Parchin is a conventional military facility and has dismissed Western allegations that it is trying to eliminate evidence of any illicit nuclear-related experiments.
The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a U.S.-based think-tank, last month said satellite imagery suggested that two buildings at Parchin may have new roofs, or possibly that the old ones had been repainted.
ISIS said continued construction activity there would degrade "the chance of obtaining reliable environmental samples if and when IAEA inspectors gain access to the site."
Asked how the West would react if Iran suddenly were to let inspectors go to Parchin, the Western diplomat said: "You are not going to see us welcoming the move and say this is great. We would say it is long past due and see what the IAEA can learn."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/10/us-nuclear-iran-iaea-idUSBRE8B90JL20121210
2. IAEA Reports No Progress on Access to Iran Nuclear Facilities
Los Angeles Times
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The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency acknowledged Thursday that inspectors had made no progress in a yearlong effort to determine whether Iran had conducted research needed to build an atomic bomb.
Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency are expected to meet Iranian officials in Tehran next week to seek a resumption of their inquiry on the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program.
"We have intensified our dialogue with Iran this year, but no concrete results have been made yet," Yukiya Amano, head of the IAEA, told the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations.
The IAEA first reported in November 2011 that intelligence suggested Iran had conducted research that could help it develop a nuclear weapon. Iran maintains that its nuclear effort is for peaceful purposes, but it has refused to cooperate fully with IAEA inspectors.
The inspectors also are seeking access to a suspected explosives testing facility at Parchin, south of Tehran. Satellite imagery indicates that Iran has tried to scrub evidence at the military base by demolishing buildings and removing soil that might hold traces of illicit nuclear work.
"What we are asking in the negotiations is to have access to sites, information and people," Amano said.
The developments have sharpened a dispute between the White House and members of Congress who want to tighten economic sanctions against Tehran.
The Senate last week approved measures to blacklist companies or individuals doing business with energy, shipping and other industries that allegedly support Iran's nuclear program.
The Obama administration opposes new sanctions, saying they could undermine the international coalition that enforces sanctions already in place.
The U.S. representative to the IAEA, Robert Wood, last week issued Tehran a March deadline to begin cooperating with U.N. inspectors. Otherwise, the U.S. would consider referring the issue to the U.N. Security Council, Wood said.
U.S. officials believe Iranian authorities may be ready to resume talks with the six world powers involved in negotiations — the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — now that President Obama, who has called for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis, has won a second term.
The IAEA reported last month that Iran had added to its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium and had installed new centrifuges at two nuclear facilities. Once operational, those could double the rate of uranium enrichment, but there's no evidence that Iran has developed the capability to build a workable weapon.
Available at: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-iran-nuclear-20121207,0,7894316.story
3. U.S. Extends Iran-Oil Sanctions Exceptions for Nine Nations
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The State Department announced that nine oil-importing nations will continue to be exempted from U.S. sanctions aimed at Iran’s nuclear program.
The decision by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton covers China, India, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Taiwan, the State Department said today in an e-mailed statement.
A December 2011 law cuts off from the U.S. banking system any foreign financial institutions that handle oil trade with Iran if their home country hasn’t earned an exception from sanctions by significantly reducing imports of Iranian oil. The exceptions are subject to review every six months.
Iran’s oil production fell by 1 million barrels per day in September and October, compared with the same period last year, according to a U.S. Energy Information Administration report cited by the State Department.
Iran’s oil output, formerly the second-largest in OPEC, has dropped to fifth among the 12 members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries as a result of economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies.
“The United States and the international community remain committed to maintaining pressure on the Iranian regime until it fully addresses concerns about its nuclear program,” Clinton said in the statement.
Twenty countries and economies “have continued to significantly reduce the volume of their crude oil purchases from Iran,” Clinton said. “This has reduced Iran’s export volumes and oil revenues, which fund not only the nuclear program but its support for terror and destabilizing actions in the region.”
Clinton said the message for Iran is that it must meet its international obligations on its nuclear program “or face increasing isolation and pressure.”
The U.S., European Union and Israel say Iran is secretly pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for civilian energy and medical research.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-07/u-s-extends-iran-oil-sanctions-exceptions-for-nine-nations-1-.html
1. Turkey to Decide Which Country Builds Second Nuclear Power Plant
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By the end of this year, Turkey will determine the country that will build the second nuclear power plant in Sinop, Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz said, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.
According to the minister, at the moment the competition is between the two countries - Canada and China. At the same time, China has a better chance, the minister said.
"The financing conditions offered by China are more advantageous for Turkey. However, the final decision on this matter will be taken by the end of this year," Yildiz said.
As for Japan, which also participated in the tender for the construction of nuclear power plant in Sinop, Turkey excluded the country due to the inferiority of the proposed project.
Today a tender is in process for the construction of a second nuclear power plant in Sinop. Initially, Canada, China, South Korea and Japan participated in the tender.
Earlier, Yildiz said that the Turkish NPPs will start generating electricity by 2019 and Turkey is planning to build another nuclear power plant by 2023.
The Akkuyu nuclear power plant will be built on the Russian project which includes the construction of four power units with VVER-1200 reactors. The agreement on the construction of the station was signed in May 2010.
The capacity of each unit will reach 1200 MW, while the total capacity is 4800 MW. It is assumed that the units will be commissioned in sequence at intervals of one year.
Available at: http://www.turkishweekly.net/news/145581/turkey-to-decide-which-country-builds-second-nuclear-power-plant.html
2. China, Russia Strike New Nuclear Power Plant Deal
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Russia will build two new reactors at China's Tianwan nuclear power plant under an inter-governmental agreement signed on Thursday.
The bilateral protocol on the construction of Tainwan's third and fourth reactors was signed in the presence of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao, RIA Novosti reported.
Construction work will begin in December this year, Rosatom civilian nuclear power corporation head Sergei Kiriyenko said.
"At the end of 2012, the first concrete will be poured for the foundation of the third and fourth reactors," Kiriyenko said, adding the nuclear power station's site could accommodate as many as eight reactors.
The Tianwan NPP is the largest facility the two countries have built under a bilateral cooperation agreement.
Its first stage included two power units with VVER-1000 reactors and was put into commercial operation in 2007.
Atomstroyexport and the Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation signed a general contract to build the NPP in 1997.
The Russian company was charged with design work, equipment and material supplies, construction and assembly work, putting it into operation and training Chinese personnel.
Available at: http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=145807
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