1. North Korea Rocket Launch Raises Nuclear Stakes
Jack Kim and Mayumi Negishi
(for personal use only)
North Korea successfully launched a rocket on Wednesday, boosting the credentials of its new leader and stepping up the threat the isolated and impoverished state poses to opponents.
The rocket, which North Korea says put a weather satellite into orbit, has been labeled by the United States, South Korea and Japan as a test of technology that could one day deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting targets as far away as the continental United States.
"The satellite has entered the planned orbit," a North Korean television news reader clad in traditional Korean garb announced, after which the station played patriotic songs with the lyrics "Chosun (Korea) does what it says".
The rocket was launched just before 10 a.m. (0100 GMT), according to defense officials in South Korea and Japan, and was more successful than a rocket launched in April that flew for less than two minutes.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a joint U.S.-Canadian military organization, said that the missile had "deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit".
North Korea followed what it said was a similar successful launch in 2009 with a nuclear test that prompted the U.N. Security Council to stiffen sanctions that it originally imposed in 2006 after the North's first nuclear test.
North Korea is banned from developing nuclear and missile-related technology under U.N. resolutions, although Kim Jong-un, the youthful head of state who took power a year ago, is believed to have continued the state's "military first" programs put in place by his late father, Kim Jong-il.
North Korea hailed the launch as celebrating the prowess of all three members of the Kim family to rule since it was founded in 1948.
"At a time when great yearnings and reverence for Kim Jong-il pervade the whole country, its scientists and technicians brilliantly carried out his behests to launch a scientific and technological satellite in 2012, the year marking the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung," its KCNA news agency said. Kim Il Sung, the current leader's grandfather, was North Korea's first leader.
The United States condemned the launch as "provocative" and a breach of U.N. rules, while Japan's U.N. envoy called for a Security Council meeting. However, diplomats say further tough sanctions are unlikely from the Security Council as China, the North's only major ally, will oppose them.
"The international community must work in a concerted fashion to send North Korea a clear message that its violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions have consequences," the White House said in a statement.
U.S. intelligence has linked North Korea with missile shipments to Iran. Newspapers in Japan and South Korea have reported that Iranian observers were in the North for the launch, something Iran has denied.
Japan's likely next prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who is leading in opinion polls ahead of an election on Sunday and who is known as a hawk on North Korea, called on the United Nations to adopt a resolution "strongly criticizing" Pyongyang.
A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman reiterated that the rocket was a "peaceful project".
"The attempt to see our satellite launch as a long-range missile launch for military purposes comes from hostile perception that tries to designate us a cause for security tension," KCNA cited the spokesman as saying.
China had expressed "deep concern" prior to the launch which was announced a day after a top politburo member, representing new Chinese leader Xi Jinping, met Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang.
On Wednesday, its tone was measured, regretting the launch but calling for restraint on any counter-measures, in line with a policy of effectively vetoing tougher sanctions.
"China believes the Security Council's response should be cautious and moderate, protect the overall peaceful and stable situation on the Korean peninsula, and avoid an escalation," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told journalists.
Bruce Klingner, a Korea expert at the Heritage Foundation, said: "China has been the stumbling block to firmer U.N. action and we'll have to see if the new leadership is any different than its predecessors."
A senior adviser to South Korea's president said last week it was unlikely there would be action from the United Nations and Seoul would expect its allies to tighten sanctions unilaterally.
Kim Jong-un, believed to be 29 years old, took power when his father died on December 17 last year and experts believe the launch was intended to commemorate the first anniversary of his death. The April launch was timed for the centennial of the birth of Kim Il Sung.
Wednesday's success puts the North ahead of the South which has not managed to get a rocket off the ground.
"This is a considerable boost in establishing the rule of Kim Jong-un," said Cho Min, an expert at the Korea Institute of National Unification.
There have been few indications the secretive and impoverished state, where the United Nations estimates a third of people are malnourished, has made any advances in opening up economically over the past year.
North Korea remains reliant on minerals exports to China and remittances from tens of thousands of its workers overseas.
Many of its 22 million people need handouts from defectors, who have escaped to South Korea, for basic medicines.
Given the puny size of its economy - per capita income is less than $2,000 a year - one of the few ways the North can attract world attention is by emphasizing its military threat.
It wants the United States to resume aid and to recognize it diplomatically, although the April launch scuppered a planned food deal.
The North is believed to be some years away from developing a functioning nuclear warhead although it may have enough plutonium for about half a dozen nuclear bombs, according to nuclear experts.
It has also been enriching uranium, which would give it a second path to nuclear weapons as it sits on big natural uranium reserves.
"A successful launch puts North Korea closer to the capability to deploy a weaponized missile," said Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii.
"But this would still require fitting a weapon to the missile and ensuring a reasonable degree of accuracy. The North Koreans probably do not yet have a nuclear weapon small enough for a missile to carry."
The North says its work is part of a civil nuclear program although it has also boasted of it being a "nuclear weapons power".
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/12/us-korea-north-rocket-idUSBRE8BB02K20121212
1. U.N. Nuclear Inspectors in Iran, No Sign of Parchin Visit
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Inspectors from the U.N. nuclear watchdog were in Tehran on Thursday for talks on Iran's disputed nuclear program, but there was no sign they would gain access to the Parchin military complex as requested.
The Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) said "no plans were announced yet for inspectors to visit Iran's nuclear facilities or other sites", without giving a source.
Thursday's talks are the first such meeting between the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran since August.
The meeting could give some indication whether Iran - which denies it wants to develop nuclear weapons - is more willing to address international concerns over its nuclear program after U.S. President Barack Obama's re-election last month.
Israel has threatened military action if diplomacy and economic sanctions intended to halt Iran's uranium enrichment program fail to resolve the longstanding dispute.
ISNA said the seven-member IAEA delegation headed by Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts would meet Iranian nuclear officials. There was no word on whether talks had begun a few hours after the inspectors arrived in the Iranian capital.
The visit was not even mentioned by state television's main midday news broadcast.
The IAEA wants an agreement that would enable its inspectors to visit a military complex, Parchin, and other sites that it suspects may be linked to what it has called the "possible military dimensions" to Iran's nuclear program.
The Vienna-based nuclear watchdog believes Iran has conducted explosives tests with possible nuclear applications at Parchin, a sprawling facility southeast of Tehran, and has repeatedly asked for access.
Iran says Parchin is a conventional military site and has dismissed allegations that it has tried to clean up the site before any visit.
Western diplomats have said Iran has carried out extensive work at Parchin over the past year - including demolition of buildings and removal of soil - to cleanse it of any traces of illicit activity. But the IAEA said a visit would still be "useful."
A U.S.-based think-tank said new satellite imagery showed "what appears to be the 'reconstruction' phase" of the site at Parchin that the IAEA wants to visit, following "considerable alterations" there earlier in the year.
"A new site layout is taking shape and the presence of dirt piles and a considerable number of earth moving vehicles and cars suggest that construction is continuing at a steady pace," the Institute for Science and International Security said late on Wednesday.
It said imagery dated December 9 indicated a new, almost completed security perimeter around the site: "Notable are further changes to the two major buildings at the site which appear to have been covered with white or grey roofing."
When he left Vienna on Wednesday, Nackaerts said the team hoped to gain access to Parchin. Other members of the delegation carried what appeared to be cases of inspection equipment.
The IAEA's talks with Iran are separate from - but closely linked to - efforts by six countries to resolve the decade-long nuclear dispute.
On Wednesday, senior European Union and Iranian diplomats discussed the timing and venue of possible new talks between Iran and Britain, France, Germany, United States, Russia and China.
Western diplomats have said a new round could be scheduled as soon as January, but there has been no confirmation yet.
The Western powers are particularly concerned about Iran enriching uranium to 20 percent fissile purity, an important technological advance that brings it significantly closer to the threshold of weapons-grade material. They also want Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA.
Refined uranium can fuel nuclear power plants, Iran's stated aim, or provide material for weapons if processed further, which the West suspects is Tehran's ultimate goal.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/13/us-iran-nuclear-iaea-idUSBRE8BC09320121213
2. Iranian Nuclear Challenge Must Be Tackled in 2013: Israel
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Iran is getting ever closer to being able to build a nuclear bomb and the problem will have to be confronted in 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.
Israeli officials would like the United States to take the lead in a military assault on Iran's nuclear sites, but say in private they would go it alone if necessary, describing a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat to the Jewish state.
Speaking to foreign journalists, Netanyahu said Israel was sticking to the red line he laid down in September, when he told the United Nations Iran should not have enough enriched uranium to make even a single warhead.
"I made clear that once Iran crosses that enrichment threshold, the chances of us effectively stopping Iran's nuclear weapons program would be reduced dramatically," he said.
"Iran is two and a half months closer to crossing this line and there is no doubt that this will be a major challenge that will have to be addressed next year."
Iran denies accusations by Israel, the United States and many Western governments that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, saying its ambitious nuclear program is for peaceful, civilian purposes.
Israeli experts have said Iran could have enriched enough uranium to produce just one bomb by the spring or summer of 2013. In an effort to deter Tehran, Western powers have imposed increasingly tough economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
"The sanctions on Iran are hurting the Iranian economy. There is no question about that. But we have not seen any evidence that sanctions have stalled Iran's nuclear weapons program," Netanyahu said.
"Israel is more capable of addressing this challenge than it was when I took office four years ago," said Netanyahu, who looks on course to win re-election in a January 22 national ballot.
Israel has one of the largest air forces in the world and is believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal.
Iran's nuclear facilities are well protected and dotted around the vast country, posing a massive challenge to the Israeli military which does not have the reach of the United States or as powerful conventional munitions.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/10/us-israel-iran-idUSBRE8B90V120121210
1. NNSA Removes All U.S. Highly-Enriched Uranium from Austria
Government Security News
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All highly-enriched uranium (HEU) nuclear reactor fuel of U.S.-origin has been removed from Austria and replaced with less dangerous low-enriched fuel, said the U.S. agency responsible for nuclear materials security.
The National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), the Vienna University of Technology and the Government of Austria announced on Dec. 11 the successful return of all remaining U.S.-origin HEU nuclear reactor fuel from Austria to the U.S. The completion of the removal program makes Austria the 22nd country that has worked with GTRI to remove all HEU from its territory, said NNSA.
“The completion of this project with Austria is another important step in the global effort to minimize the civilian use of HEU around the world, while preserving important research capabilities,” said Anne Harrington, NNSA deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. “The removal of the remaining HEU fuel is a significant achievement and it could not have been accomplished without the strong leadership and hard work from our counterparts in Austria.”
The removal project, said NNSA, was begun in September 2011 when the U.S. and Austria signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to work together on supplying low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel to fully convert the TRIGA-type reactor at the Vienna University of Technology, and returning 1.2 kilograms of HEU to the U.S. by the end of 2013.
NNSA said the GTRI worked closely with the Vienna reactor staff and the Government of Austria to implement the steps laid out in the MOU and completed the project one year ahead of schedule. Together, said the agency, both sides worked to minimize interruption of regular use of the reactor for research and training. In addition to enabling important scientific research work, the Vienna reactor plays an essential role in supporting the critical mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), including instrument calibration, IAEA safeguards inspector training and other IAEA supported training, said NNSA.
To date, NNSA said GTRI has now removed approximately 1,265 kilograms of HEU from countries around the world – the equivalent of about 50 nuclear weapons – under the U.S.-Origin Nuclear Material Removal Program.
According to NNSA, the shipment of the 1.2 kilograms of HEU was also significant as it marks the removal of all TRIGA HEU fuel from international civilian commerce. The shipment was the 59th of U.S.-origin fuel returned to the U.S. safely and successfully since the U.S.-Origin Nuclear Material Removal Program began in 1996, it said.
Available at: http://www.gsnmagazine.com/node/28023?c=cbrne_detection
One of the key issues in Sunday's Lower House election is the future of Japan's 50 commercial nuclear reactors, all but two of which remain off line in light of the Fukushima disaster.
But few voters are aware that six reactors are operating in the South Korean cities of Busan and nearby Ulsan sit only 200 km from Fukuoka. Both nuclear plants are situated on the country's southeast coast, and their safety situation closely resembles the Fukushima No. 1 plant before it had three core meltdowns in March 2011.
And work has almost finished on two new reactors at the Ulsan facility.
As awareness grows of the dangers of nuclear power, around 450 Japanese and an equal number of South Koreans took part in a nine-day cruise tour from Dec. 1 organized by nongovernmental organizations, visiting atomic plants in both nations and debating the risks and economic issues both countries face.
"If there is a crisis at a nuclear power station in either country, it would threaten the lives of people in both Japan and South Korea," said Tatsuya Yoshioka, a representative of the Tokyo-based Peace Boat NGO, which helped arrange the tour.
During visits to the four-reactor Kori nuclear plant in the industrial powerhouse of Busan and the two-unit Shin Kori atomic complex in Ulsan, another large metropolis, an employee of the museum built by the operator of the plants explained their safety features to guard against earthquakes, touting the robustness of the reactor buildings' 1.5-meter-thick walls.
"The structures can bear pressure from major temblors and other natural disasters. We believe it is safest to evacuate into the buildings (rather than flee the area) in the event of an earthquake," the employee said.
However, the reactors have suffered minor accidents in the past. In February, the entire power supply to one of the units at the Kori facility was cut for 12 minutes before workers rerouted electricity from the other reactors.
Yet local residents weren't informed of the incident until a month later, according to Gu Tae Hee of Busan's Democracy Park NGO.
Locals also fear that a disaster similar to the Fukushima No. 1 meltdowns could occur in their own backyard, and that hundreds of thousands of people might be forced to evacuate due to massive radioactive fallout, just like residents in Fukushima Prefecture did last year.
"I am concerned about (a possible) crisis at the two power stations because the area is densely populated," said Hwa Duck Hun, an assemblyman of Busan's Haeundae Ward, which is located just 20 km from each plant and has some 430,000 residents.
The fact that one of the Kori plant's reactors was manufactured by a U.S. company in 1977, just two years before a unit at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania suffered a partial meltdown in the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history, makes Hwa all the more uneasy.
The narrow roads in small villages such as Shinri, which is situated extremely near to both power stations, could prove a major problem in a catastrophe because they would become jammed with people fleeing for their lives.
The village has asked authorities to widen existing roads, Shinri Mayor Shon Bok Lark said, adding local officials have also started holding nuclear disaster preparedness drills.
Displaying a photo of a crammed road near the Fukushima No. 1 plant immediately after the crisis was spawned by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, Kenichi Shimomura, one of the tour members and a former anchorman of a TBS news program, explained the importance of widening roads near the plants as a key precaution.
"Roads in the vicinity of the Kori and Shin Kori nuclear complexes are narrow and similar to those that residents in Fukushima used to escape. But because they are narrow, the residents could move at a speed of only 12 meters per hour," Shimomura noted.
"I wonder whether you are considering how to evacuate in case of a critical nuclear accident," he told Mayor Shon.
But the truth is, Shon explained, the construction of nuclear plants is a national project, and villagers were left with no choice but to agree to host the Kori and Shin Kori facilities.
Atomic energy is a hot-button topic in South Korea's Dec. 19 presidential election, as 23 reactors are currently churning out electricity for the nation. Park Geun Hye, tapped by the ruling Grand National Party as South Korean President Lee Myung Bak's successor, is a strong advocate of nuclear power, but her main rival, the opposition camp's Moon Jae In, wants to completely phase out atomic plants.
"The election could (fundamentally) change South Korea's energy policy," said Choi Yul, head of the Korean Green Foundation, the tour's co-organizer.
The South Korean government plans to increase the ratio of nuclear power in the country's electricity supply to 48.5 percent by 2024 from 31.4 percent, the figure for 2010.
However, the safety of nuclear plants remains unresolved, according to Yun Sun Jin, an environmental studies professor at Seoul National University who pointed out the risk of a disaster occurring in the megalopolis of Busan, population 3.6 million, as well as at the five-reactor Wolsong atomic complex that lies a little farther north along the coast.
After learning about South Korea's nuclear plants, tour participant Daisuke Makise was struck by the parallels in the two countries: In each case, the central government has pressured municipalities in dire need of jobs to host nuclear complexes in exchange for an economic boost.
As a result, the economies of these communities have become hugely dependent on the nuclear energy industry, said Makise, a 25-year-old graduate student at Kagoshima University.
"Unless there are other industries (regional economies can rely on), we cannot easily say stop nuclear power," Makise said.
But for Sayaka Taira, another tour member, the difficult and complex situation residents face in South Korea has only reinforced her conviction that nuclear plants are not something she wants Japan to continue depending on in the future.
A 28-year-old employee at the Tama Culture Center in western Tokyo, Taira said she will vote in Sunday's election for a party seeking to completely eliminate atomic energy.
"Although they may not be able to propose details for the abolition of nuclear power, I support parties that (promise to) do their best to shut down atomic plants and reconstruct industries in areas hosting them," Taira said.
Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121213f1.html
The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten) has asked nuclear waste contractors at the Oskarshamn nuclear plant to review their security requirements after cracks were found in the pools where nuclear waste is temporarily stored on site.
Cement walls are cracked in two of ten waste pools at the Clab storage facility, which is run by the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (Svensk Kärnbränslehantering, SKB).
SKB must now look into whether the pools still live up to safety requirements and report back to the Radiation Safety Authority.
The main aim at the interim storage is to make sure no water nor gas can leak out, the statement pointed out.
One security requirement details that any cracks on the inside of the pools not be wider than 0.4 millimetres, the agency noted in its report.
It is the second time in less than a week that the Radiation Safety Authority has wagged its fingers at the Oskarshamn nuclear plant.
On December 6th, 2012, it ordered the temporary closure of one of the three reactors.
"We decided that Oskarshamn nuclear power plant (OKG) should take nuclear reactor O2 offline immediately," the Radiation Safety Authority (Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten) said in a statement.
The plant operator was told to put one of its diesel generators through a 48-hour test run, the statement read. There was no immediate danger, it added.
"The power supply to the reactors is extremely important. This was one of the main problems at Fukushima," safety inspection chief Leif Karlsson told the TT new agency.
"If you don't have this system running, you cannot add water to the reactor."
Available at: http://www.thelocal.se/45026/20121212/#.UMn23-TAe1A
4. Ukraine Approves Plan to Borrow Eur600 Mil for Nuclear Safety
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Ukraine's government approved a plan to borrow Eur600 million ($785 million) from the European Union's nuclear power agency Euroatom to improve safety at the country's nuclear power plants, according to a resolution published Wednesday.
The money, which will be jointly lent by Euroatom and by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, will be borrowed by the government, and will be provided to EnergoAtom, a state-owned company that incorporates Ukraine's four nuclear power plants.
EnergoAtom earlier planned to borrow Eur300 million from the EBRD to finance a complex program to improve safety at its power plants.
The government decided to improve the safety at the Ukrainian nuclear power plants following a nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan in March 2011.
Ukraine's nuclear power reactors generate almost a half of the country's power and the government planned to further expand the sector in order to reduce dependence on imports of Russian natural gas.
The safety plans come as the government has been already carrying out an upgrade of a number of nuclear power reactors in order to extend old reactors' lifespan, a program that had environmentalists worried about the reactors' safety.
Greenpeace activists on December 7 staged a protest in front of the EBRD's office in Kiev seeking to stop the European bank from financing the program expanding the lifespan of old reactors amid safety concerns.
EnergoAtom, which runs 15 nuclear power reactors with total capacity of 13,835 MW, produced 81.5 TWh of power in January-November, down slightly from 81.51 TWh produced in January-November 2011.
Available at: http://www.platts.com/RSSFeedDetailedNews/RSSFeed/ElectricPower/6901272
The U.K. nuclear regulator gave approval to a reactor design by Areva SA (AREVA) and Electricite de France SA, bringing EDF closer to its goal of expanding in England.
The Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency permitted Areva’s U.K. European pressurized water reactor design for construction in Britain, according to a statement today on the ONR website.
The government wants to make building new nuclear stations more palatable for investors while reassuring consumers the industry is safe as it pushes low-carbon energy sources to meet growing demand. EDF, GDF Suez (GSZ) SA and Iberdrola SA (IBE) are among companies studying whether to build nuclear plants in Britain, which is seeking to replace an aging power station without adding to carbon emissions.
“It is a significant step, and ensures that this reactor meets the high standards that we insist upon,” said Colin Patchett, acting chief inspector of nuclear installations at ONR. “There remain site-specific issues that must be addressed before we’ll approve its construction on any site.”
The purpose of the so-called Generic Design Assessment process is to improve the safety and environmental aspects of reactors while their designs are still on paper to avoid costly changes during construction. The Areva, EDF design, called the U.K. EPR, is the first to go through the assessment process. It cost the companies 35 million pounds ($57 million) and took five years. All new reactor types proposed for the U.K. must complete the GDA.
EDF operates eight atomic power stations in Britain and has proposed to add Areva reactors at its Hinkley Point and Sizewell sites. Areva, based in Paris, yesterday signed agreements with 25 U.K.-based companies. The pact worth as much as 400 million pounds is to supply equipment and services for two EPR reactors at Hinkley Point C, which won a site licence last month.
Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive at EDF’s local unit, said in a statement that the assessment process didn’t change cost estimates for the reactor. EDF Energy plans to have “main components” of agreements relating to contracts for power from Hinkley Point in the next few weeks, with a final investment decision “at the earliest possible date,” he said.
The Office for Nuclear Regulation in December 2011 gave “interim” approval to Areva and EDF’s design. It asked the companies to address 31 concerns, the last of which was settled on Dec. 7, the watchdog said in a statement on its website yesterday. One of those concerns was added after the Fukushima disaster, Dave Watson of the ONR said in an interview in London.
The GDA acceptance doesn’t allow for construction to proceed. That still requires site specific approvals, such as planning permission, environmental permits and nuclear site licences.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-13/u-k-nuclear-regulator-said-to-approve-edf-areva-reactor-design.html
2. Work on New Fast Breeder Reactors to Begin Next Year
The Times of India
(for personal use only)
The year 2013 shall see India enter an all new phase of its nuclear program, where work will begin on the first lot of the commercial fast breeder reactors at the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) in Kalpakkam.
With work on the prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) close to completion, the government is looking at building two commercial variants that will be used to transmit power to the power-starved state electricity boards. "We will hold a public hearing in three months time, before beginning the design stage of the two reactors," said Dr Prabhat Kumar, chairman of Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam (BHAVINI) at Mamallapuram on Wednesday.
Speaking at a national symposium on Radiation Physics, Kumar said the reactors would each be of 500MW capacity and have a liquid sodium coolant system. "These will be an improved version of PFBR. Both these units will be located in the vicinity of PFBR so that they may share some non-critical facilities. This way, we hope to cut costs," he said. Earlier this year, the department of Atomic Energy had announced that it would set up 6 commercial fast breeder reactors in the next 15 years.
Fielding questions about the expensive nature of the nuclear programme, S C Chetal, director for Indira Gandhi Atomic Research Centre (IGCAR) said, "International nuclear power comes at a cost of $4,500 or 2.4 lakh per kilowatt. We generate it at 1 lakh per kilowatt. The lessons we have learnt from building PFBR will help us make the new commercial reactors cost effective." Additionally, after the failure of the coolant system at the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, a safety audit was conducted in all Indian reactors. The precautionary measures arrived upon in the audit shall be added to the new units, said Chetal. "We don't need to pump water unlike in Fukushima as air is the only medium needed for heat transfer for the new sodium coolant reactors," he said.
Available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/Work-on-new-fast-breeder-reactors-to-begin-next-year/articleshow/17592943.cms
1. Nuclear Debate Takes Center Spot in Upcoming Japanese Elections
The Japan Daily Press
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As the day of Japan’s general elections draws closer, political parties and independent candidates have picked up their campaigns, promises and rhetorics. But of the myriad issues swarming the polls, one in particular seems to stand out in voters’ minds: the future of nuclear power in Japan.
It has been over a year and a half since the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, which caused the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant. That event has left a bitter taste in the mouth of many Japanese, with many of them advocating a total and permanent shutdown of all of Japan’s nuclear plants. Protests regularly take place every Friday in front of the Prime Minister’s residence and the Parliament building. Many political parties and independent candidates have used eradicating the use of nuclear energy in Japan as a banner for their campaign. Ironically, the party many see as winning the election isn’t so sure.
Surveys show that people are expecting the Liberal Democratic Party to regain control of the political landscape. LDP head Shinzo Abe, who was Prime Minister for one year in 2006, has already expressed the difficulty of simply shutting down nuclear plants. Political experts say that the LDP, together with business groups and power companies, simply want to avoid having a debate. They won’t say outright that they are pro-nuclear, but will simply say to wait and see for a few more years. Others have warned that while politicians see the importance of the nuclear debate as a political platform, it doesn’t mean that promises will be carried out once the elections are over.
Available at: http://japandailypress.com/nuclear-debate-takes-center-spot-in-upcoming-japanese-elections-1219707
2. TEPCO Unable to Locate Source of Leak in Fukushima Reactor
The Asahi Shimbun
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The operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is grappling to locate the source of a leak of highly radioactive water in the crippled No. 2 reactor, and will continue trying to pinpoint the cause next week.
A remote-controlled robot is now scouring the basement of the reactor building that houses the pressure suppression chamber to pinpoint the cause of the leak.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it was unable to identify the source of the leak when the robot inspected one of the eight vent pipes that connect the chamber with the containment vessel on Dec. 11.
TEPCO suspects the radioactive water is leaking from fractures near the pressure suppression chamber.
It was the first detailed inspection near the chamber.
Nuclear fuel in the No. 2 reactor melted following the earthquake and tsunami disaster last year.
A huge volume of highly radioactive water, used to cool down the fuel, has since been leaking from the reactor, TEPCO said.
Available at: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201212120033
3. Experts Fear More Nuke Reactors May Be Sited over Active Faults
The Asahi Shimbun
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More nuclear power plants could be found to be sited over active fault lines as the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) conducts safety reviews of facilities, experts say.
A panel of specialists with the NRA concluded on Dec. 10 that a fault line extending from below the No. 2 reactor at the Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tsuruga plant in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, is active. The reactor is likely to be decommissioned, along with the nearby No. 1 reactor.
The conclusion suggests, the experts say, that construction of some nuclear plants was approved despite insufficient data that electric companies provided or due to lax oversight of the authorities.
The Tsuruga plant is one of six sites that were ordered in August by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, the NRA predecessor, to have geological fault surveys conducted.
The authorities said that the six plants should be re-examined for possible active seismic faults in and near the facilities, saying there was not enough data showing otherwise.
The other five sites are: Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture; Hokuriku Electric Power Co.’s Shika plant in Ishikawa Prefecture; Kansai Electric’s Mihama plant in Fukui Prefecture; Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Monju prototype fast breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture; and Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Higashidori plant in Aomori Prefecture.
Two of the four reactors at the Oi plant are the only two of the nation's 50 commercial reactors currently online.
Reactors and other crucial facilities are not allowed to be built above an active fault under the government’s 2010 quake-resistance standards for nuclear power plants.
Apart from the Tsuruga plant, many seismologists and geologists argue that a reactor at the Shika plant also sits on an active seismic fault.
There remains a sketch of a fault line extending below the No. 1 reactor at the Shika plant. It was produced by Hokuriku Electric in a geological survey when the utility applied for the installment of the reactor in 1987.
But authorities at that time determined it was not active.
Some experts, however, pointed out at a meeting of specialists at NISA in July that it was a “classic” example of an active fault.
Hokuriku Electric is conducting an additional study of the fault, but the study has been delayed.
Authorities have been reviewing existing geological data on the grounds and areas surrounding nuclear plants that were provided by the plant operators. The review was prompted by last year’s Great East Japan Earthquake, which set off a triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
An on-site inspection of the Shika plant by an NRA team is expected next year.
If the fault is assessed to be active, the No. 1 unit could be asked to be permanently shut down.
At the Mihama plant and Monju fast breeder, an active fault, Shiraki-Nyu, runs in the vicinity.
Experts say faults known to be situated underneath the reactors at the two facilities could move if the Shiraki-Nyu active fault slips.
The operators are conducting a study to come up with more data on the suspected faults.
At the Oi plant, an emergency water intake channel, which is crucial in responding to a nuclear accident, is situated above a possible active fault.
A panel of experts at the NRA conducted an on-site inspection on Nov. 2, but did not reach a conclusion.
It is expected to take months for the NRA to come to a conclusion. Additional surveys, including drilling, are expected to take place.
If a fault is found to be active, the plant must be shut down to allow work to relocate an emergency water intake channel.
But many experts say that the reactors will not need to be decommissioned simply because of that.
A separate NRA panel is expected to conduct an on-site inspection of the Higashidori plant on Dec. 13-14.
Tohoku Electric says no crucial facility sits on a fault that some specialists suspect is active.
If the fault is assessed to be active, a review of safety checks will be needed to evaluate if the plant is quake-resistant before it can be restarted.
Available at: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201212110062
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